Some members may not be aware that Paul Stein does a lot of work for the Prison Service as a Jewish Chaplain. He was asked if he would write a few words about his work there, which he does enjoy. Interesting to hear that although quite a number of prisoners register as Jewish, there aren’t really too many Jews in prison. Thanks to Paul for writing this short article for us.
‘I am the Jewish Chaplain. I work for the Home Office Prison Service as a Jewish and generic Chaplain. I visit HMP Bure on Tuesdays and work there as the Jewish Chaplain albeit I am trained to carry out generic duties at the Bure. I draw keys and a prison radio. I work at HMP Norwich on Thursdays and every other Sunday and on days they need extra cover. My work at HMP Norwich is totally different to Bure. I have carried out this work for some 23 years now and have worked in about 9 different prisons. I am to my knowledge the only Jewish person to have been employed in Chaplaincy when I was appointed Jewish Chaplain to HMP Kennet in Liverpool in 2008. I left there some three months later as I did not enjoy living in Liverpool!
My duties include carrying out statutory duties which includes visiting the Segregation unit and completing many forms! I also visit the YOI Unit (Young Offenders). I have to visit all new Receptions, that is people who have just arrived from court and check their religion and dietary needs; arrange for prisoners to attend their religious services. I visit prisoners who are about to leave the prison having completed their sentence to check if they have somewhere to live after leaving.
I am also the bearer of good news and bad! There is a lot of computer work needing to be carried out and of course paper work too. I recently tried to see a man and was advised not to approach his cell; later on that day I went to the same wing to deliver a bible to a prisoner. The man I should have seen earlier had set light to his cell and ‘all hell was let loose’; there were prison officers all trying to evacuate the landings and so on. I have to see a large number of prisoners registered as Jewish, most of these men do not have Jewish names, they do not know which sedrah they read for their Barmitzvah and most do not know what a Barmitzvah is! They are asked to get their home rabbi to write to me to confirm they are Jewish; so far I have never had a rabbi write to me! It is kosher food they want ……. The work has its ups and its downs, but I like the work and I am well respected by the majority of staff.’