It is estimated that more than 10 million people are held in prisons around the world. The consequences of a custodial sentence are far-reaching. Family relationships, mental and physical health, employment prospects and finances are all affected by imprisonment. And while there is increasing awareness of the importance of rehabilitation and support for prisoners both during their sentence and after, the impact on their relatives and,in particular their children, is often overlooked. These children are the invisible victims, receiving a sentence of their own while they have a parent in jail.
The Order has a long tradition of working with prisoners, ex-offenders and their families around the world. It works in locations as diverse as Malta, Panama, Lebanon, Romania, Singapore, Indonesia and Brazil.
In the United States the Order has an active Prison Ministry programme, with projects in 31 states supporting prisoners and their families, and helping ex-offenders re-integrate into society on their release, as well as promoting prison reform and supporting work to improve the perception of those in prison and of ex-offenders.
Its work focuses on helping prisoners prepare for a life after prison through training and support in finding accommodation and employment. It focuses on restoration and reconciliation, and includes visits, a letter-writing programme, support with training and acquiring qualifications during the sentence, as well as promoting employment opportunities on release, all of which have been shown to dramatically reduce re-offending rates.
In addition, it offers a mentoring programme for young people, many of whom have a parent in prison, which seeks to break the commonly held perception that it is in some way a badge of honour to follow a parent’s path to prison.
The Global Fund for Forgotten People supports many of the Order’s works with prisoners and their families around the world.
Launching Prison Ministry in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom has a prison population of just over 80,000. Many of these people are extremely vulnerable, and have a history of substance abuse, child abuse, self harm and neglect. 24% of adult male prisoners were in care in their childhood, 40% witnessed violence in their home, and 27% were abused. Ask almost any prisoner what he wants, and he will tell you that he wants to stop offending. Key to this is a place to live, and a job, as well as help and support with reintegration into society. The Nehemiah Project is an independent Christian based charity with over 20 years’ experience working with men with a history of addiction and crime. Its clients are arguably some of the most marginalised and exluded individuals in society, with multiple and complex needs. Nehemiah believes that anyone can change their life, and this philosophy underpins their approach to
rehabilitation, which gives vulnerable men the support they need to review their lives and build more positive futures.
Nehemiah has three houses in south London, each of which supports 18 ex-offenders at any given time. The houses’ residents participate in a 12 week cognitive behavioural therapy programme which provides a holistic approach to recovery and resettlement, while support workers provide the guidance and advice that each resident needs to build resilience, address challenges and manage conflict. The second stage of the programme focuses on building independence and autonomy, and men are helped to find employment or education and training, and to rebuild family relationships. 90% of Nehemiah’s residents remain free of addiction, and re-offending rates are around 5%, compared to a national average of 50%, and 60% in London.
The Order of Malta’s British Association is working in partnership with The Nehemiah Project, to establish a fourth house in London that can support ex-offenders and help them rebuild their lives and reintegrate into society with added support for their families. The Order of Malta will provide funding and volunteers to support the project, and plans to work with Nehemiah to establish a blueprint for support that can be replicated elsewhere in the country, ensuring that others can benefit from Nehemiah’s support and vision.