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Catholic bishops back Tory prison reforms

Bishop Richard Moth has previously spoken out about over crowding in prisons (Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk)

The Christian approach to prisons is not a “soft option” but “tough love” Bishop Richard Moth has said, following the announcement of radical plans to reform prisons across England and Wales.

Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, has launched a reform plan for prisons prompting some members of his party to accuse him of forgetting victims, to which the secretary of state responded that he was a Christian who believes in “redemption.”

Following Michael Gove’s remarks, Bishop Richard Moth, liaison Bishop for Prisons, said: “The Christian approach to prisoners is not a soft option. It is tough love – restoration and making amends for crime committed are all part of the Christian message Giving prisoners real opportunities for rehabilitation will reduce the number of victims in the future.”

He also said that the idea of “redemption had been absent from the ‘national conversation.'” He continued: “By placing redemption back into the heart of the public and prisons discourse, my hope is that the prison cell can become a place of repentance, forgiveness and new beginnings.”

Michael Gove’s reforms will place a new emphasis on rehabilitating prisoners through an emphasis on education and rewards for good behaviour.

Bishop Moth said this new approach could potentially reduce re-offending rates in England and Wales saying: “A greater emphasis on education and rehabilitation should have a positive impact on re-offending rates. To be effective, support has to be in place for people as they leave prison, particularly as they reintegrate into wider society.Parishes have a role to play in this reform by being places of welcome to all.”

He added: “Clearly, reform is needed within our prison system and I am very encouraged by Michael Gove’s and indeed the Prime Minister’s commitment to reform. As well as reform of prisons themselves, we also have to think long and hard about reducing overcrowding in prisons, which gets in the way of staff doing much good work, and therefore also looking at sentencing policy.”