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Great Britain: the Bishops about prison reform, “essential for the victims to be involved”

“It is essential for the victims to be involved in the building of a more humane criminal justice system. The role of the Church is to support the victims of crime by helping them find out that ultimately it is forgiveness, not punishment, that heals”. This is written in a document called “A journey of hope”, published by the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, which reflects on the necessary reform of the prison system and puts forward a few factual ideas. The document starts with the role of prisons and the need to also change the public perception of prisons, while curbing “excessive, sensationalist” journalism. The document then looks at the reasons behind such a high proportion of convicts and lists the reforms that would be required. Then, it lingers on the principle of “effective rehabilitation”, then looks at the more vulnerable groups: women (5% of convicts), people suffering from mental or psychiatric disorders, some ethnic minorities. For each section, the document makes suggestions, which may be addressed to the Catholic community, such as “developing rehabilitative programmes in the parishes”, or to the government, for instance to encourage and support the use of alternative punishments.

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