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Monday, March 4, 2024

Prison chaplains celebrate 50 years behind bars

It takes a special sort of person to enter a prison – by choice – to support convicted criminals.

Inside Out Prison Chaplaincy, operated by not-for-profit Carinity, has been supporting people in Queensland correctional centres for 50 years.

David Urquhart, who served as a volunteer chaplain in Woodford and Maryborough prisons in the 1970s and 1980s, says prison chaplains “help a group of people that the rest of society has rejected”.

“I have spoken to people who told me that certain people in prison should be executed. For me, having a discussion with an inmate about spiritual things is enormously rewarding,” he said.

“When you sit down and talk to a guy who beat a person to death, but now talks about the love of Christ – and you can see the change in his life – you cannot do anything but be thankful to God.”

Inside Out Prison Chaplaincy coordinator, Graham Hembrow, and Carinity Acting CEO, David Angell, cut a cake celebrating 50 years of the prison ministry.

Another chaplain, George Stubbs, visited former prisoners such as Carl and Gerald in prison each week.

Caught in a vicious cycle that saw him in and out of prison for 12 years, Carl recalls the comfort of seeing the chaplain’s friendly face, reminding him that God still loved him. It was a pleasant reprieve from the negativity of prison life.

After his release, Gerald told his parents that going to prison and being given a Bible may well have been the best thing that could have happened to him, because it was the start of an incredible transformation in his life.

Gerald is now a church pastor who helps ex-prisoners reintegrate into society, while Carl now operates his own construction business.

Inside Out Prison Chaplaincy currently has around 40 volunteer prison chaplains providing pastoral care to men and women in 14 correctional centres around Queensland.

“The chaplaincy team have a notable history of providing long and faithful service,” said Inside Out Prison Chaplaincy Coordinator, Graham Hembrow.

“George Stubbs served as an IOPC chaplain for 21 years, and the late Arthur McDonald ministered at Palen Creek Correctional Centre for 35 years.

“Our current longest continuously serving prison chaplain is Wayne Nickson, with 21 years’ service.”

Inside Out Prison Chaplaincy recently held its 50th anniversary celebration in Brisbane, with the gathering attended by guests from as far away as Cairns.

The event included presentations from past and current chaplains and coordinators, as well as former prisoners whose lives have been transformed thanks to prison chaplains.

Suzanne Lipp and Margaret Drummond are volunteer prison chaplains with Inside Out Prison Chaplaincy.

To help Inside Out Prison Chaplaincy place more chaplains into Queensland prisons visit insideoutchaplaincy.org.au or phone (07) 3550 3789.

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