Members of Gateway Church - Dave Farley, Tony Halstead, Joan Fidler, Anju Thomas and myself - as part of the Prison Fellowship team, have been going into HMP East Sutton Park for several years.
HMP East Sutton Park is a women’s open prison situated near Sutton Valence with a maximum of 100 inmates and nothing like the usual perception of prison. There are no huge metal doors which have to be locked and unlocked as you go further in. It is an attractive large country house in extensive grounds with a farm, and women go there to prepare for release. Most have come from closed conditions and have difficulty adjusting to shared bedrooms/dormitories and the lack of privacy. They go through different stages – initially working in the gardens, the house, or on the farm, before being allowed out for a few days to visit home, find voluntary work and finally paid work outside. The re-offending rate is only 3%.
At our Tuesday evening meetings, we sing, (with Dave playing his accordion!), pray and listen to a talk. We want to introduce women to Jesus and encourage those who already know Him in their Christian walk. Over the years the attendance has varied. At the moment we have 7 – 10, which is great. We have recently seen a pagan lady turning to Jesus and another asking Jesus to come into her life in the meeting. A few years ago, we had a dramatic healing! We praise God for the privilege of going in regularly. Prison Fellowship is based on prayer and we have a monthly prayer meeting at Tony’s home.
The hardest thing for women prisoners is the separation from their children. So we fund raise and buy Christmas presents for the children on which their mums write a personal message. The scheme is called Angel Tree and operates in most prisons in the UK.
Please pray for peace in our prisons, for prisoners, prison staff, Chaplains and PF. If you feel called to get involved or join us in prayer, please let me know.