Prisons Week 2019: Moderator commends work with young offenders

PCI Moderator, Rt Rev Dr William Henry, has commended the work of the Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre, following a visit to the Centre for young offenders near Bangor, County Down, made as part of Prisons Week 2019.

The theme for of this year’s annual event, which is taking place from 13th-19th October, is “What does freedom mean to you?” During his visit the Moderator met with staff and young people, as well as the Presbyterian Chaplain to the Centre, Rev Colin Megaw.

PCI Moderator, Rt Rev Dr William Henry

“I wanted to see at first hand the important work being done by a large team of dedicated staff, who often work in challenging circumstances. The young people I met, and the work that I saw confirmed to me that the grace of God is offered to all, without exception, and that Christ has the power to transform the lives of all who seek him,” Dr Henry said.

“Our prison chaplains work hard to bring the love of Christ to those in custody, their families, and to the community of staff and officers. They are to be commended for the important work they do.”

Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre, which opened in 2007, seeks to provide a safe, secure and stimulating environment for up to 48 boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 17 placed there in custody. It offers a wide range of services and support that is tailored to each young person’s specific and age-related needs. This is to support their reintegration to the community upon release and help prevent their re-offending.

Dr Henry said that he was particularly impressed with the new faith course, called ‘RESTORE’ that had been written especially for the young people in Woodlands by the chaplaincy team. Explaining what it meant, he said, “‘RE’ stands for ‘Real Evidence’, ‘ST’ stands for ‘Secret Treasure’, ‘OR’ stands for ‘Offered Relationship’ and E stands for ‘Everyone’. I hope and trust many of the young people will take part in the course in this its pilot year.”

Pictured at the Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre at Rathgael, near Bangor, County Down are (left to right) Rev Colin Megaw, Presbyterian Chaplain at the Centre, the Moderator, Rt Rev Dr William Henry, Brian Ingram, Director of Woodland’s Juvenile Justice Centre with the convenor of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Healthcare, Forces and Prisons’ Chaplaincy Committee, Rev Robert Bell.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland ministers to prisoners and staff across all of Northern Ireland’s various institutions.

These include HMPs Maghaberry, Magilligan and Hydebank Wood College, which incorporates the Northern Ireland Women’s Prison. Presbyterian ministers also minister to young people at Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre in Bangor and, on request, visit prisons in the Republic of Ireland.

Dr Henry concluded by saying, “As followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Church believes that true freedom can only be found in Him. I would encourage people to pray that all, including those in prison, will indeed find freedom in Him, and have their lives transformed.”

Read more PCI news on their website here and you can find out more about Prisons Week 2019 on their website here.