Non-religious pastoral care in prisons

Non-religious prisoners have a legal right to request and be provided with a humanist pastoral support visitor in the same way that a religious prisoner has the legal right to see a chaplain of their religion.

Offenders have issues which are often designated as legal or health-related, but are often also in need of supplementary pastoral care, especially in cases involving bereavement or other personal difficulties.

Our pilot project in Winchester Prison involved working with prisoners with ‘nil’ religion on admission, holding discussion groups and providing bereavement support. The project was well received by both offenders and prison management, and is now a permanent aspect of pastoral care at Winchester. This provision has now been extended to a number of other prisons throughout England and Wales, and it is hoped a similar service will soon be available in Northern Ireland.