07 October 2004

Methodist Church House Welcomes Criminal Justice Forum

For the first time, Methodist Church House hosted the bi-annual network meeting of the Churches Criminal Justice Forum (CCJF).

On the day after Michael Howard told the Conservative Party Conference that he would build more prisons if elected, delegates at the Forum were told that 'prison doesn't work'.

In a passionate presentation ex-convict Mimi Nunez-Trejos, said: "Prison doesn't get people to face up to what they have done. It saps confidence and self-esteem, and for many offenders, prison becomes a revolving door."

Mimi was advocating for SmartJustice, an organisation that campaigns for more community-based solutions to crime. She said: "Why send short term offenders to prison? There are alternatives to custody, such as behaviour programmes or community punishment orders, that have been proven to prevent people re-offending."

Mimi paid tribute to a Methodist volunteer, Margaret Island, who visited her regularly in prison. Indeed, according to Lindsey Holley, Policy Officer for the Churches Criminal Justice Forum, every year Christians give up 300,000 hours to visit prisoners.

Ms Holley, who liases with the Home Office in policy consultations, is stationed in Methodist Church House. She said: "Being in Methodist Church House is an expression of ecumenism in practise. It fosters an atmosphere of togetherness and opens up lines of communication between the churches."

Anthea Cox, Co-ordinating Secretary for Public Life and Social Justice, summarised the day: "Today's forum demonstrated that there is great need to uphold Christian values in the field of criminal justice, and that the churches have a big part to play in creating social change. More than ever, there is a need for new approaches to criminal justice, and our chaplains and volunteers have a great deal to contribute to this process."


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