Find new ways of letting mothers stay with their children rather than face imprisonment, says lead bishop for prisons

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In his first public lecture as the lead bishop for prisons, Richard Moth asks “what more can be done to ensure that a mother can remain with her children and pay her debt to society without the need for a custodial sentence?”

Acknowledging that “there will be those who will argue that the thought of the effect of crime on family should be a deterrent to crime,” he questions why innocent children should suffer as a result of a crime committed by a family member.

The prison population stands at 85,241, with 3,983 women in prison. No one can underestimate the impact on children of a mother in prison.

“Family members, such as grandparents, are often the carers for children and the imprisonment of a mother puts further strain on already stretched social services,” says Bishop Moth. Children become victims of crime themselves and “they speak of a system which struggles to meet the needs of families whose mothers are given custodial sentences.”

Catholic parishes he says should be places of support, not judgement for families of offenders and he believes that “there is still much to be done to overcome stigma and to enable families to maintain their dignity and place in the local community.”

The Harold Hood lecture took place on Wednesday 6 November at St Luke’s Community Centre in East London.

This year, it celebrated the Bishops’ Conference document ‘A Place of Redemption’ – a leading publication which looks at a Christian approach to punishment and prison and is as relevant today as it was when first published ten years ago.

Full Lecture

You can download a full PDF of Bishop Moth’s 2013 Harold Hood Lecture using the link in the top right-hand corner of this page.


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The late Sir Harold Hood was formerly Vice-President of Pact. He was a remarkable man who inspired and helped many people during his life through his faith, wisdom and encouragement. His dedication to Pact’s work, and his personal concern for the welfare of prisoners and their families, was outstanding. Infused with this concern, the work of Pact continues to grow and flourish. This year marks the eight anniversary of Sir Harold’s death. 

About Pact

Pact is a national charity which currently works inside 20 prisons, has staff placed with several local authorities, and volunteers working to support families and prisoners on release. Pact works with offenders, ex-offenders, and their children and families, focusing on relationships, mentoring and befriending support, and safeguarding and supporting children and vulnerable adults. 

A Place of Redemption

You can download the Bishops’ 2004 document ‘A Place of Redemption’ to the right of this article.