Freedom in Prison



Michael Coghlan, via Flickr

Nick Page and James Totton look at people who find God in a surprising place - in prison.

Transcript


Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight, I'm Nick Page.

Voice 2

And I'm James Totton. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Where would you search to find God? A church, maybe? Or a mosque, or a temple? Or maybe in a beautiful place, surrounded by nature - such as in the mountains or by the sea. You probably would not think to look in a prison. Yet religious faith is having a big effect on criminals in prisons around the world. Today's Spotlight takes a look at some examples.

Voice 1

John Finlinson lives in England. John is a happy man now, but he began his life in an unhappy home. His father drank a lot of alcohol and was violent. He moved away from John's mother and their family when John was 10 years old.

The young boy was then free to do what he wanted and to go where he wanted. No one was controlling him. He turned to crime. He began with small crimes, like smashing windows, starting fires and stealing sweets from stores. When he grew older, his crimes became more serious, like stealing cars. Then he began using drugs, and then dealing in drugs. He started fighting and being violent. The police officer in John's home village in England said that 95 percent of his work was about crimes which John did.

By the time John was 19 years old, he had already spent several years in prison His last prison sentence was for violently entering a house to steal property and for threatening to kill someone.

Voice 2

Something strange happened just before John's trial for that last crime. He knew the court would probably sentence him to a long time in prison. On a hill near his village, he did something unexpected - he prayed to God. He said:

Voice 3

"God, I need to know your truth. I need to know who you are."

Voice 2

John already knew a little about God. When he was a boy, two women at a Christian club for young people tried to teach him about being saved by Jesus. He says now,

Voice 3

"I did not know what that meant. But God was beginning to show me the way."

Voice 1

After John prayed on the hill, he felt sure God was telling him, "If you want to know more about my truth, you need to start seeking it." This is what John did. Instead of telling lies in the court, he told the truth about his crimes. The judge sentenced him to six years in prison.

Almost every day while he was in prison, John Finlinson read the Christian Bible. When he came out of prison, he was a different kind of person. He has not done any crimes since he was released 10 years ago. He now has a wife and three children and operates a small business.

Voice 2

John now tells people he was in prison mentally and emotionally before he went to any physical prison. He says,

Voice 3

"I had to go to prison to find freedom."

Voice 2

And he says it was the power of God that changed him.

Voice 1

The same kind of thing is happening in other countries where prisoners are discovering the power of religion. The number of people who continue to violate the law after having an experience of religion in prison is much less.

Voice 2

The aim of most religious programs in prisons is to teach criminals that they do not have to continue to behave badly. They can avoid trouble. One of the first things they learn is to accept that they are responsible for things they did to other people. After that, they may be able to repair the damage they have done.

Voice 1

Religious programs in prisons are not all operated by Christians. In Britain, Muslims are working in many prisons - where the number of Muslims is rising. Muslim leaders say one reason for religion having a big effect in those places is that more than half of the prisoners are men under 30 years old. People in this age group are more interested in thinking about religion, especially if they are in prison.

Voice 2

A striking example of the effect of religion in prisons is an experiment in Brazil. A (Christian) church group now operates one of the prisons in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo. Men in this prison are not called 'prisoners'. They are called 'recuperandos'. In English, this means 'men who are being recuperated' - they are recovering. These men are trusted to manage the operation of their prison each day.

Voice 1

Less than five percent of people released from this prison continue to do criminal acts, compared to 86 percent released from other prisons operated by the government.

Voice 2

One of the main aims of this church prison program is that the prisoners – the 'recuperandos' - will have an experience of 'being loved and also of being able to love'. They learn about the love of God for human beings. The aim is to give them a personal spiritual experience. This will help the 'recuperandos' to change the way they think and behave.

Voice 1

Prison Fellowship International is a religious organisation serving people in prison. The president of the organisation is Ron Nikkell. He says,

Voice 4

"It is very hard for prisoners to change and become responsible in a normal prison. They are separated from their families. They have no freedom. All decisions are made for them. This even includes the time they get out of bed and when they eat."

Voice 1

Mr Nikkell said more prisons around the world are trying Prison Fellowship programs. The programs are based on Christian ideas.

Voice 2

That young Englishman, John Finlinson, is a good example of how religion helps criminals to change. John says being sent to prison was hard, but it was also a blessing. He was placed in the Dartmoor high security prison. And there he discovered the truth he was looking for. John believes that God spoke to him in a powerful way. He says that first, he learned the truth about himself. He says he did not like what he saw. And he says he learned about the freedom that God offers to anyone who puts his or her faith in Jesus Christ - freedom from guilt and shame, and from self.

Voice 1

John Finlinson is no longer in prison - but he visits many prisons to tell prisoners about the special freedom that he has found. This, he says, is freedom that anyone can find -- if they will seek God.

Voice 2

The writer of today's programme was Michael Charles. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and New Zealand. All quotations were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. Computer users can read our scripts, hear our programs and see our word list on our website: http://www.radio.english.net. This programme is called "Freedom in Prison".

You are welcome to write to us with questions and comments about Spotlight. Our email address is radio at english dot net. You can also leave comments on our website and you can find us on Facebook - just search for Spotlight Radio.

From all of us at Spotlight, goodbye.

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
edwin
said on October 18, 2010

I LIKE THIS PROGRAM ABOUT THE PEOPLE STAY IN THE PRISON
AND HOW THEY CAN CHANGE THEIR WAY , WITH THE HELP OF GOD , AND FOR ME ALWAYS I THINK IN THE POWER GOD,

Avatar Spotlight
kenhieuloilam
said on December 20, 2012

In the life we are responsible to ourselves and everyone. We are permitted to do good things and not permitted to do not good things. We are responsible for our choices of not good things. Not good things cause damages to us and everyone. Not good things make us depend on them. We are difficult to go out of them. We do not get freedom. We love true things. We try much to go out of not good things. We aim to good things. When we live our lives in good things we feel peace. We feel freedom.