I know you might be scratching your head as to how this whole prison topic goes with Guatemalan Genes.
First let me say that even though at many times (now is one of them) I feel like God is making no sense, by faith or probably more so by hope somehow I cling to his promise “Everything, that is all things that appear good and appear bad, will become known to you in My timing that they were all indeed good for those who love Me and that I have called to Myself, according to my plan, which is the bearing of His likeness in those whom I knew from the beginning.” Romans 8.28-29
A couple of weeks ago I was asked to write my CV focusing on my service interest and I was shocked to discover how there was a conductive thread on at risk youth and rehabilitation of offenders, starting with our graduating High School project which I proposed: “Correctional facilities in Guatemala”. Now, sadly, the issue is closer to home than I would ever imagine and has led me to make more conscientious life and career choices to work on how to better the success rates of offenders re-entry to society. I cannot do much in the US, where I am finding out the system is light years from being successful and has no serious attempt to provide with rehabilitation, reentry programs and where the few services are outsourced to people just interested in collecting the service fee. On the other hand I am in a position to influence change in Guatemala.
In Guatemala the whole penitentiary system is a shame and re-entry programs are basically non existent. As the whole world knows Guatemala’s crime rate and impunity situation is only worsen by the fact that jails and prison have become “universities of crime”.
Today, Christmas, may I ask for you to say this prayer
PRAYER FOR JAIL AND PRISON INMATES
Dear Lord, you have always shown yourself as friend of the small ones, the poor and the excluded to the point that you had wanted to go through the experience of being incarcerate: you were denounced, detained and imprisoned in the darkness of the night, led to prison and sent to questioning, insults, tortures, judged with no legal process, condemned and executed (as many through out history and still today).
Your love has taken you to identify yourself with them and to remain present in them: I was in prison and you came to visit me. At this puzzling sign we dare to ask you for all of todays inmates so that they:Don’t think that because society condemns them, you reject them.Don’t renounce for a moment to their dignity as people and children of God.Don’t ever loose their liberty within.Don’t despair nor fall to depression.Don’t give up on fighting against any type of oppression, repression or injustice.Be eager to change their conduct.Work for their life and re-entry.Don’t abandon their families and friends, nor be abandon by them.Get close to you and their situation inspires them to along with you be saviors of the world.We also want to ask for us, society and the Church so thatWe don’t reject inmates for the sake of their situation.We respect them as the people they are.We see you in them and serve them accordingly.We accompany and help them in their reentry process.Our love may, in fact, help them discover who YOU are. AMEN
ORACIÓN POR LOS PRESOS Y POR NOSOTROS
Señor Jesús, Tú siempre te mostraste amigo de los pequeños, de los pobres y de los excluidos: hasta el punto de querer pasar por la experiencia del preso: fuiste denunciado, detenido y apresado en la oscuridad de la noche, conducido a la cárcel y sometido a interrogatorios, insultos, burlas, malos tratos y torturas, juzgado sin las debidas garantías, condenado y ejecutado (como muchos a lo largo de la historia y también hoy).
Tu amor te llevó a identificarte con ellos y a permanecer presente en ellos: estuve en la cárcel y viniste a verme. Ante este gesto tan desconcertante nos atrevemos a pedirte por las presas y presos de hoy para que:
•No piensen que porque la sociedad los condena, Tú los rechazas.
•No renuncien ni un solo momento a su dignidad de personas e hijos de Dios.
•No pierdan nunca su libertad interior.
•No se desesperen ni caigan en depresión.
•No renuncien a esforzarse contra todo tipo de opresión, represión e injusticia.
•Se afanen en cambiar de conducta.
•Hagan por su vida y por su reinserción.
•No abandonen a sus familias y amigos, ni sean abandonados por ellos.
•Su situación los acerque más a Ti y sean cosalvadores del mundo.
También queremos pedirte por nosotros, la sociedad y la Iglesia para que:
•No rechacen a las presas y presos por el hecho de serlo.
•Les respetemos como personas que son.
•Te veamos y sirvamos a Ti en ellos.
•Los acojamos con cariño y comprensión cuando recobren la libertad.
•Les acompañemos y ayudemos a reinsertarse.
•Nuestro amor, en definitiva, les ayude a descubrir que Tú les quieres.
Te lo pedimos por María, tu Madre y nuestra Madre.
Jóvenes en la cárcel
Prayer for Prison Inmates
The following prayers were written in response to letters from prisoners requesting prayers to be used by them in special circumstances. They may be prayed in agreement with a prayer partner or intercessor.
Prayer for an Inmate’s
Protection and Future
Father, I pray that I may become useful and helpful and kind to those around me, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving others , as You, Father, in Christ forgave me my sins.
It is my desire to be an imitator of You, Lord. With the Holy Spirit as my Helper, I will , as a well-beloved child . I purpose to walk in love , as Christ loves me. As I attend to Your Word, I depend on Your Holy Spirit to teach me to live a life of victory in Christ Jesus my Lord.
In the name of Jesus, I am Your child. I am dwelling in the secret place of the Most High and abiding under the shadow of the Almighty. I say of You, Lord, that You are my Refuge and Fortress: my God; in You will I trust. You cover me with Your feathers, and under Your wings shall I trust: Your truth is my shield and buckler.
Because You are my Lord, my Refuge and Habitation, no evil shall befall me — no accident will overtake me — neither shall any plague or calamity come near me. You give Your angels charge over me, to keep me in all of my ways .
Thank You for hearing my prayer. You are with me in trouble; You deliver me and satisfy me with long life and show me Your salvation.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
Prayer for an Incarcerated
Parent and His/Her Children
Listen, God, I’m calling at the top of my lungs: “Be good to me! Answer me!”
When my heart whispered, “Seek God,” my whole being replied, “I’m seeking Him!” Don’t hide from me now.
I didn’t know it before, but I know now that You’ve always been right here for me; don’t turn Your back on me now. Don’t throw me out and don’t abandon me; You’ve always kept the door open.
Thank You for sending ministers to tell me about You and Your love for me.
My children say they hate me; they feel abandoned and alone. Even though their father/mother walked away from them, I ask You, Father, to take them in.
Lord of the harvest, I ask You to send laborers of the harvest and wise counselors to my children, who have been hurt by my actions.
Father, I have sinned against You, against my children, and against myself. I repent of the sins that have so easily beset me and ask You to forgive me.
Father, Your Word assures me that You forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Thank You for forgiving me. I pray that my children will be willing to forgive me so that we may be a family again.
In the name of Jesus, I cast the care of my children on You and rest in the assurance that You will perfect that which concerns me. I put on the garment of praise and delight myself in You. Teach me Your ways, O Lord, that I may walk and live in Your truth.
In Jesus’ name, amen.
Prayer for an Inmate To Pray
for His/Her Family and Caregiver
Father, I have sinned against You, against my children, and against myself. I repent of the sins that have so easily beset me and ask for Your forgiveness.
Father, Your Word assures me that You forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Thank You for forgiving me. I pray that my children will be willing to forgive me so that we may be a family again.
Thank You for the one who has assumed responsibility for my children while I am away. I pray that You will strengthen him/her and fill him/her with Your Spirit Who gives him/her great wisdom, ability, and skill in rearing the children You gave to me. I repent for failing to assume my responsibility to my children, and I ask You to reward the one who is taking care of them.
His/her mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of his/her heart shall be understanding. I thank You that he/she is in Christ Jesus, Who has been made unto him/her wisdom from You — his/her righteousness, holiness, and redemption. He/she is filled with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that he/she may live a life worthy of You and may please You in every way, bearing fruit in every good work.
Father, I am responsible for my own actions, and I recognize that what I have done has hurt my entire family. Forgive me for dishonoring You, my family, my friends, and my children. Give me the grace to pay my debt and do my assigned work as unto You. Help me to develop diligence and patience, giving myself to prayer, study, and meditation in Your Word.
Lord, there is violence within these walls, but I look to You. Hide me in the secret place of Your presence from the plots of others. Keep me
Ephesians 4:32 AMP Psalm 91:9-11 AMP
Ephesians 5:1,2 AMP Psalm 91:15,16
Psalm 27:7-10 MESSAGE Isaiah 61:3
Matthew 9:38 Psalm 37:4
1 John 1:9 Psalm 86:11 AMP
1 Peter 5:7 Hebrews 12:1
1 John 1:9 Colossians 1:9,10 AMP
Psalm 49:3 Colossians 3:23,24
1 Corinthians 1:30 Psalm 31:20
© 2014 Word Ministries, Inc.
Pioneering New Approaches
There are many programs for inmates at the Washington County Jail. They have been designed not only to enhance the safety and order of the jail, but also to improve public safety by making inmates more productive upon release.
Inmates can participate in a wide array of opportunities and are provided a schedule and sign up instructions.
Drug and alcohol prevention groups
Religion-based life skills and substance abuse classes
Cognitive and behavioral groups targeting violence prevention, personal control, and problem solving skills
Women’s groups on anger management and domestic violence prevention
Life skills classes in parenting, computer skills, and finding and keeping employment
General Educational Development (GED) testing preparation
Basic adult education classes
High school completion
English-as-a-second-language (ESL) classes
Intensive cognitive restructuring and skill building programs
In-depth drug and alcohol relapse prevention groups
We Plan for Success from the Very Start
Shortly after lodging, Jail Programs counselors assess assigned inmates as the first step toward developing a long-term plan for the inmate’s successful transition back into the community as a productive citizen.
The latest assessment tool helps them identify not only the history of each inmate, but also to gain insights into what motivates them and what support factors could make them more productive when they leave jail. The goal is to reserve jail beds and save jail costs by identifying low risk offenders. Those with a lower likelihood of returning to jail can be quickly returned to the community before they lose their job, house, and family ties. This allows jail counselors to spend more time with inmates who are at a high risk to return to jail.
Eligibility for program activities depends upon the inmate’s security classification and other factors, such as sentencing status, length of stay, assessed needs, and behavior within the jail. Participation in many of these activities is dependent upon cooperative and responsible behavior.
Program activities target the issues most likely to result in ongoing criminal behavior, including anti-social attitudes, impulsive behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, and skills deficits.
Inmates who are coping with chronic mental illness or developmental disorders can participate in treatment activities if deemed appropriate by the jail’s medical health care provider.
Caring for Children of Incarcerated Parents
For inmates with children, the jail offers a process that allows these inmates to request support for their children through the schools and referrals to the Family Justice Initiative. The Family Justice Initiative is a grant-funded organization created specifically to help the children of incarcerated parents, and their families, through assistance with resources as well as counseling services.
Yusuf Rahim — a man who will be familiar to most by his real name, Levi Bellfield
Friday morning in Wakefield Prison and Yusuf Rahim joins 60 other Muslim prisoners as they head to the jail’s gym to say their prayers. If nothing else, it is a chance to get out of his cell and take a break from the normal routine.
The same goes for the halal food the 47-year-old is served every mealtime — Rahim is particularly partial to the spicy vegetable curry — an improvement on the normal prison fare.
And there is one other advantage to his new-found religion. Because, as one of Britain’s most reviled murderers, he is banking on his Muslim ‘brothers’ providing him with some level of protection during his time inside.
At least that’s what Rahim — a man who will be familiar to most by his real name, Levi Bellfield — hoped would happen when he converted to the Muslim faith not long after being sentenced to life for the murder and rape of schoolgirl Milly Dowler.
‘He found out a paedophile had been slashed in Wakefield and thought he would be next: he was a marked man after he was convicted,’ revealed his sister Ann-Marie Bellfield. ‘He said they were good boys and would look after him … he got friendly with Islamic guys and didn’t have a problem.’
Given the character of the man, few will be surprised to learn that Bellfield’s religious conversion — he reportedly refers to Islam as ‘this beautiful faith’ — was motivated by cowardice and self-preservation.
But it also shines a spotlight on a much wider issue that is causing widespread concern across government and beyond.
In recent years, the number of Muslim prisoners has increased dramatically. Ministry of Justice figures show a rise from 6,571 in 2004 to 12,255 a decade later, meaning that Muslims now account for almost 15 per cent of all inmates.
In high security jails, the figure is higher still — one in five; while in one Category A establishment, almost half are Muslims.
Taken on its own, the disproportionate numbers of Muslims being jailed is in itself cause for concern (Muslims comprise roughly 5 per cent of the population of England and Wales).
But what is particularly worrying the authorities is the potential it offers for radicalisation.
As the number of Islamist extremists locked up for terror offences increases, so they are finding fertile ground among fellow prisoners. Indeed, it is claimed that some are deliberately getting custodial sentences so that they can target this pool of disaffected young men.
In turn, there is growing evidence of the spread within prisons of Muslim gangs who wield so much power that other prisoners feel coerced into converting or doing as they bid in other ways.
‘If our prisons are going to be filled with more terrorism offenders, then I think they will also get even more full with radicalised individuals,’ warns Jonathan Russell, head of policy at counter-extremism think tank Quilliam.
‘There is a significant danger that our prisons will become net exporters of extremism, when, surely, if we are arresting terrorists, they should be net reducers.
‘And if we don’t get it right, the very real danger is that when people come out they will be further radicalised and further hardened to commit violence.’
Indeed, so pressing is the problem that the Government has announced it is considering the possibility of setting up ‘jihadi jails’ — prisons which solely house Islamist extremist terrorists.
Last Monday, Mr Cameron hinted at this radical new approach as he described tackling religious extremism as the ‘new front’ in prisons.
‘We have about 1,000 prisoners who have been identified as extremists or vulnerable to extremism,’ he said. ‘Some of these individuals are preying on the weak, forcing conversion to Islam, and spreading their warped view of the world.
‘I am prepared to consider major changes, from the Imams we allow to teach in prison to changing the locations and methods of dealing with prisoners convicted of terrorism.’
Pictured are the Muslim extremists who killed Lee Rigby – Michael Adebolajo (left) and Michael Adebowale
Quite what is behind the rise in the number of inmates within the prison population generally who identify themselves as Muslim is not entirely clear.
One factor is that if you are young and come from a poorer background, you are more likely to come into contact with the criminal justice system.
The Muslim population in Britain is, generally, younger and disproportionately concentrated in lower socio-economic groups. The upshot is a Muslim prison population growing faster than the Muslim population at large.
New figures obtained in the past few days from the Statistical Unit at the Ministry of Justice under a Freedom of Information Act request show that out of 88,000 prisoners in June 2015, 12,660 were Muslims.
Increases have occurred across the country. For example, in five years the number of Muslim prisoners at Pentonville prison in North London increased from 240 to 377. At Wormwood Scrubs, West London, there are 372 Muslims — up from 284; while at The Verne, in Dorset, the numbers increased from 84 in 2010 to 225 last year, a surge of 167 per cent.
But the highest proportions of Muslim prisoners are to be found at the country’s eight top security jails. Figures show that 1,229 out of 5,885 inmates, or 20.8 per cent, are Muslim. That is an increase of 23 per cent in five years.
Belmarsh prison in London has the most Muslim inmates, 248 of 868 — or more than 28 per cent.
But proportionately by far the highest is Whitemoor prison in Cambridgeshire, where roughly 44 per cent follow the Islamic faith. It held 199 Muslims in 2015 out of an official population of 447.
Caged inmates include rapists, killers and terrorists, among whom is Zia Ul Haq, 35, of Wembley, London, who was jailed for plotting to bomb a London Tube tunnel and set off a radioactive ‘dirty’ bomb.
Of course, there is no reason why a large grouping of Muslim prisoners per se should cause any more problems than if they were, say, Christian. But staff at Whitemoor say that such is their gang-like behaviour that they fear it is putting the safety of the institution in jeopardy.
‘In Whitemoor, we have a number of different Muslim groups: all are ultra religious, very insular and can be very intimidating,’ one staff member told the Mail, speaking on condition of anonymity. ‘There are radical groups on all three wings. They follow a very strict interpretation of Islam. They pray five times a day, follow a strict diet and do not mix with any other prisoners. They don’t watch television or play on computer games.
‘You see what’s going on and think that some of these people are being indoctrinated by some very strong personalities.’
These gangs effectively run their wings — meaning that other prisoners are left with a difficult choice as to how they should react.
Friday morning in Wakefield Prison and Yusuf Rahim joins 60 other Muslim prisoners as they head to the jail’s gym to say their prayers (file photo)
‘Every new prisoner will be targeted by the religious gangs,’ he says. ‘They will tell him to join his “brothers”. They will offer him protection and support providing he prays five times a day and follows their version of Islam.
‘They will tell him that they are not interested in his crime providing he promises to be a good Muslim.
‘They will offer the same deal to anyone; it’s a case of “that was your previous life and that doesn’t interest us”. I would say about half of the Muslim groups on a couple of the wings are converts to Islam.’
And he added: ‘There is some sort of incident every day in Whitemoor involving the Muslim groups. It might be a row about the food or someone claiming their prayer time has been interrupted.
‘These can be violent episodes, and sometimes they are concocted as some sort of power play, which is directed not just at the other prisoners but the guards as well.’
Tensions at the jail were also highlighted in a report based on a series of interviews with inmates by Alison Liebling, a professor of criminology at Cambridge University in 2011.
Some told researchers they were bullied into changing religion, while those who resisted said they were too scared to cook bacon in communal kitchens in case it caused offence.
Others claimed the jail was a ‘recruiting ground’ for extremism, as young inmates were ‘in awe’ of convicted terrorists held there.
The report added that there was considerable ignorance and confusion about the Islamic faith, meaning ‘those with extremist views could fill a gap in knowledge with misinformation and misinterpretation’.
This is of particular concern given the increased number of Islamist extremists being jailed for terror-related offences.
Last month, Nick Hardwick, the outgoing chief inspector of prisons, warned: ‘There are undoubtedly a small number of very dangerous men motivated by a religion or ideology who are trying to recruit other people so they will go on to commit offences linked to that ideology or religion.’
It is a point echoed by Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association. ‘The dangers of gang cultures and radicalisation of young Muslim men is a real concern, as within our prison system it can have a destabilising effect,’ he said.
‘Added to this, the Government has cut prison officer numbers by 25 per cent since 2010. This is a recipe for disaster at a time when the UK is under a huge threat from terrorism.’ Beyond the very real risks of radicalisation, prison officers are also having to deal with the fall-out caused by tensions between Muslim gangs and other inmates.
‘These gangs use their faith as a cover for violence and intimidation, threatening non-Muslims and pressuring them to convert to Islam.
‘I have got many prisoners who are so fearful of Muslims that they feel they need to form alliances with them for protection,’ one prison governor recently revealed.
‘There are some vulnerable young boys who will have converted because they are afraid. I think it is more a gang issue than radicalisation, but this is a big issue.’
Joe Chapman, a former prison officer who now acts as a prison law consultant, believes the problem of so-called ‘convenience conversions’ is on the increase.
‘This job takes me to 40 or 50 prisons over the year, throughout the country,’ he said. ‘It has become obvious to me that it’s a growing problem.
Jordan Horner was jailed for targeting people drinking alcohol, couples holding hands and women deemed to be dressing ‘inappropriately’ in 2012
‘About half a dozen of my clients have directly reported problems with being forced to convert — those who weren’t Muslim when they came in, and those who were and have been forced to look at more radical ideas about their faith.’
One young woman whose brother is serving a lengthy sentence in a top security prison in England told how he was being bullied by members of a Muslim gang who were trying to force him to convert to Islam.
‘He just looks like a broken man,’ she said, again asking not to be identified. ‘He’s tearful on visits, and I’m just really scared for him. He’s been physically assaulted. He’s had black eyes. In the showers, he got threatened with a knife.
‘He’s not going to back down. He’s not going to convert for anyone. He just spends his time hiding in his cell. He’s got at least another five years to serve. I don’t know how much longer he can hold out.’
Another serving prisoner told the Mail: ‘Some people really struggle when they come in to prison. They will try to find some support — and the Muslim groups offer that. A lot of black men in their early 20s who are in on violence or drug charges are targeted.
‘They would maybe have been part of gangs for a long time. But in prison, they’re on their own. I’ve seen guys who’ve been beaten up or bullied, had their fags nicked and their cells turned over, that sort of thing, and then they’ll be befriended by some of the Muslims.
‘Then the guy will put in a formal request saying that he wants to change his religion. He might have a meeting with the governor and he goes through the process of becoming a Muslim. Everyone knows why they are doing it — it’s not as if they have suddenly found God.’
As for those who refuse, such is the influence of these gangs that in some prisons they have started to impose a ‘protection tax’ on anyone who does not follow Islam.
The tax, called jizya, is reported to have been levied by gangs of Islamist extremists at Belmarsh, Long Lartin, Woodhill and Whitemoor prisons.
According to evidence supplied to a government-appointed team investigating extremism in jails, inmates claimed to have been bullied and threatened with violence unless they made payments with phone cards, food, tobacco or drugs.
Some of the alleged victims said they were told to arrange for friends and family on the outside to transfer money to nominated accounts.
To that background, there are growing calls for the Government to act quickly and decisively.
The appointment of Peter Clarke, Scotland Yard’s former head of counter-terrorism command, as the new chief inspector of prisons is seen as a sign that Justice Secretary Michael Gove is preparing to step up the fight against extremist gangs in jail.
Mr Gove has also appointed Ian Acheson, a former Home Office official, to carry out the aforementioned investigation into extremism and radicalisation in prisons and to develop ways of tackling the problem.
As for the Prime Minister’s suggestion last week that extremist Islamist prisoners could simply be segregated from the wider prison population, if past history is anything to go on, such a move would almost certainly be challenged through the courts.
Last year two terrorists linked to Al Qaeda successfully brought a case after being kept in solitary confinement.
The Supreme Court ruled that Kamel Bourgass, who murdered a policeman and plotted to spread the poison ricin on the streets of the UK, and Tanvir Hussain, jailed for a plot to blow up transatlantic planes, had been segregated ‘unlawfully’ in jail.
This was despite evidence that the pair had bullied fellow inmates in a bid to radicalise them. Hussain, it was claimed, had been preaching through his cell window ‘in a determined attempt to convert non-Muslim prisoners to his own interpretation of Islamic ideals’.
As the Mail revealed this month, the pair received more than £75,000 in legal aid to successfully challenge their treatment in court.
It is against this background that the question must be asked as to how much the Government will be able to crack down on this growing problem — even if it wants to.