Methodist Church House Welcomes Criminal Justice Forum

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

On the day after Michael Howard told the ConservativeParty Conference that he would build more prisons if elected,delegates at the Forum were told that 'prison doesn'twork'.

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, prisonbecomes a revolving door."

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

Mimi paid tribute to a Methodist volunteer, MargaretIsland, who visited her regularly in prison. Indeed, according toLindsey Holley, Policy Officer for the Churches Criminal JusticeForum, every year Christians give up 300,000 hours to visitprisoners.

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

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