Cardinal Vincent Nichols has said that Britain’s prisons are facing an “urgent crisis” – but that the Government’s efforts at reform are “a cause for hope”.
The cardinal was speaking the day before the Justice Secretary Liz Truss unveiled plans to invest £1.3 billion in prisons over the next five years.
The Archbishop of Westminster told an audience of chaplains, MPs and peers: “Unprecedented and rapidly escalating levels of suicide and self-harm, assaults on staff, violence including murder; yet we know that better prisons are possible and the Government’s commitment to prison reform is a true cause for hope. We do need courageous improvement in sentencing, education, staffing, health services, family contact and pastoral care.”
The cardinal was speaking at a CSAN parliamentary reception to launch the bishops’ new vision for prison reform, entitled The Right Road.
He said: “Our society is failing prisoners and prisons are failing our society. Even more than before a bold and serious programme of prison reform is needed. Many of our prisons are more overcrowded and dangerous than at any point in recent history … Far too often prisons are places of despair rather than places of redemption … The Church has a great deal to contribute in this endeavour.”
Government plans, set out in a White Paper, include 2,100 extra officers, drug tests and more autonomy for governors.
Last year prisons were deemed to be in the “worst state for a decade”, according to the chief prisons inspector. Ministry of Justice figures showed that 321 people died in prison custody, an increase of 30 per cent on the year before.
Cardinal apologises for historical ‘forced adoptions’
Cardinal Vincent Nichols has apologised to mothers who say they were pressured into giving up their children in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
His comments were made in the ITV documentary Britain’s Adoption Scandal: Breaking the Silence, shown last Wednesday.
The programme interviewed 60 women who had their babies adopted by agencies linked to the Catholic Church, the Church of England and the Salvation Army. The cardinal, who is president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said: “The Catholic Church understands and acknowledges the grief and pain caused by the giving up of a child through adoption.
“The practices of all adoption agencies reflected the social values at that time and were sometimes lacking in care. We apologise for the hurt caused by agencies acting in the name of the Catholic Church.”
Lawyers investigating the issue have urged the Home Secretary Amber Rudd to open a public inquiry. The practice ended in 1976, when local authorities were given responsibility for handling adoptions.
Broadcaster priest dies aged 81
A much-loved Liverpool priest who hosted his own BBC Sunday morning radio show for 15 years has died aged 81.
Fr John Benedict Thompson was parish priest at St Francis de Sales, Walton, for 32 years. His show, All in Good Faith, was broadcast until 1987. He did much work for the charity Survive-Miva, once driving an ambulance to Ethiopia, stopping in Rome for a blessing from St John Paul II.