On this day I was in a large prison with three separate buildings, with different regimes, but all on the one large estate, sharing duties with Muslim, Sikh, Church of England and Pentecostal colleagues.
There was a phone call from the elderly mother of a man I have been seeing weekly. She was in hospital when her son entered the prison and at his request I had been in touch with the family.
Now mother was home she wanted to know how he was coping and to tell him she was managing quite well. I told him, and phoned her back.
One man's girlfriend rang because she thought he was depressed. After seeing him... smiling and chatty… I rang to reassure her that this morning I had found him well and looking forward to release and seeing her in three days time.
I tried to locate a Quaker prisoner I have been seeing regularly. He had been given the job as Library orderly, but he wasn't at work as he had a visit from his solicitor, probably about his upcoming court case.
The First Timers Weekly Discussion Group: I had one of these today.
The First Timers Group gives me the chance to explain the learning opportunities in Education at all levels from basic literacy upwards (I attended a OU award for a BA degree all done during a sentence.) There is a wide range of trade courses too including building, driving, and waste management. Sometimes the offence will exclude a man from his previous employment and he will need to rethink his work options and his life style.
At the reception interview I invite all men new to an adult jail to come to the group. Sometimes men have done a sentence in a young offender institution, but they say an adult jail is quite different.
The Insider (orderly) from the Reception wing came to talk with the First Timers to pick up problems in his remit - concerns about canteen and phone accounts and getting money sent in; filling in visiting forms and submitting names and addresses for vetting. A major lifestyle issue is that on admission all prisoners’ mobile phones go into their property box to be returned when they leave. Commonly men can't remember and don't have a written list of telephone numbers.
A Listener (Prisoner Samaritan) came too. Their remit is not problem solving or giving advice. Trained by the Samaritans they offer a confidential listening service for all prisoners this can help reduce tension and anxiety. They are on call for each wing 24hrs a day.
Family Time - an afternoon at the open prison: one of these was held today
Here once a month the Children's Team of qualified play workers arrange craft and games, perhaps a walk outside and the prison provides teas, funded by Quakers, to help families strengthen their relationships. Having Dad in prison can be a very difficult time for everyone. Research shows that men who maintain their family ties are less likely to re offend. Ten families came this afternoon; two of the little girls running round were born when Dad was in the closed section of the prison. They met at a 'Baby Bonding Visit' when babies were about a week old.
The craft session provides an opportunity for Dads and children to work and learn together on a project and he can practice being patient! Today they were making daffodils, it was April, and all the efforts were combined in a beautiful frieze, which we left displayed for everyone to enjoy.
The time when dads and children are busy with craft and games is when Chaplain can listen to Mums and hear about life at home and their journey and hopes for the future.
The tea was excellent, as usual. Men on the Catering course had prepared it, in the Kitchens. It contributes to their Catering Certificate award.
After about two hours, it was time to say Goodbye, until next time.
For more information about Quaker prison chaplains, click here.