A FORMER prison chaplain has set up a charity to help ex-prisoners start a new life on their release and he is now looking for volunteers from the church to help as mentors and to support the work.
Reverend John Sephton, from Ormskirk, was prison chaplain at HMP Risley between 2003 and 2010 during which time he helped rehabilitate a number of prisoners by placing them with faith organisations and working with relevant professional organisations.
On retirement from the Prison Service, John felt called to continue this work from the “outside” which led to the setting up of charity ‘57:fourteen’ – the name refers to Bible verse Isaiah 57:14, “And it will be said: ‘Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.’”
The vision of 57:fourteen is to work with local churches to help and empower them to integrate ex-offenders into their community so that they can start a new life outside of prison and make a positive contribution to society.
Helping the charity is a group of professionals from the probation, chaplaincy, and voluntary sectors, all of whom have a passion to help ex-offenders.
HMP Risley has also agreed to support the work but Rev Sephton says that they need other prisons to get on board as well as faith organisations.
In particular he is looking for volunteers to mentor, pray for and financially support the charity, with training being provided.
As well as seeking funds to develop the initiative, the charity wants to employ a part time worker.
Rev Sephton said: “Whilst working in HMP Risley, I became very aware that there was a need to support ex-offenders. The church is ideally placed to work with other relevant organisations to support, mentor and give these people a better opportunity to start again, and take their rightful place in the local community.”
Prison chaplain and 57:fourteen board member, Reverend Graham Nuttall, said that all the board members appreciate the difficulties ex-prisoners face, and in particular finding the right person to offer support and guidance “when things get tough and when the possibility of re-offending looms once again”.
“It is true that some offenders do receive quite considerable support within the prison system,” Rev Nuttall said, “However, it is often overlooked that the day a prisoner walks ‘through the gate’ and returns to back ‘normal society’, a great deal of that support completely evaporates.
“Sadly the ex-prisoner is left to look after him or herself in almost every respect. Many offenders do not have supportive families who are able to give them the guidance which is so very necessary, and they do not always have the knowledge about health and welfare organisations; let alone possible opportunities for gainful employment. This is why 57:fourteen is so very important.”
To donate and to find out more visit www.avivacommunityfund.co.uk and search ‘57 Fourteen Launch Project’.
(Photo – Rev John Sephton.)