It was my privilege a few days ago to attend a coffee morning for Prisoners Week. It wasn't "in aid" of Prisoners Week in a money-raising sense. In fact it was a free coffee morning. It was for Prisoners Week though and was held in a prison. The prison is a low security one, or this wouldn't have happened of course, but members of local churches (and an imam from the mosque) were invited in to the prison to have coffee with the prisoners. The coffee and cakes were served by the chaplains and some of the prisoners. The rest of the prisoners who came were served along with the public.
Some prisoners' artwork was on display and one of the prisoners read a poem he had written. Also on display was some photos of some of the charity efforts that prisoners had been involved in.
What was lovely about the occasion was that, without any orchestration, the tables all filled up with a mixture of prisoners and public who were able to chat in a relaxed way.
The purpose of Prisoners Week is to remind folk in the churches to care about and pray for prisoners, and the chaplains who organised the event were hoping that this would help with that aim. Hopefully the attendees would go back to their churches and talk about the event. It was also hoped that the prisoners would have the opportunity to learn that there are people out there who care about them enough to give up a Saturday morning to travel to the prison to come in and chat to people they don't know, and that they - the prisoners - would sense that they were loved. Interestingly, a couple of the prisoners commented that they thought it was a great occasion and it was good to be able to show people that prisoners can be "nice" and "normal".
The prison where the coffee morning was held is for people at the end of their sentences and one of the privileges is that the guys can wear their own clothes. Because of this, a few of the public in attendance whispered to me (being a woman it was clear I was not a prisoner) "How do you know who's a prisoner and who's a member of the public?"
I loved that question. "Exactly!" and "Yussssss!", I thought.