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Humanists begin weekly broadcasts on prison radio to raise hope during epidemic

Humanists have begun weekly broadcasts on the national radio station for prisoners as part of a new initiative to raise hope and offer support during the epidemic among prisoners, many of whom are being confined to their cells for 23 hours a day because of new Coronavirus restrictions.

Through the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network, Humanists UK works to ensure that all people with non-religious beliefs have access to pastoral support in prisons, hospitals, hospices, and universities. Almost 20% of prisons have a non-religious pastoral carer in their team but demand is much higher. However, currently, prisons are not allowing face-to-face pastoral care volunteering, and as technological options are not yet available, prisoners are missing out on this vital contact.

Now, Humanists UK has been invited to give moral and ethical perspectives from a humanist speaker on the National Prison Radio –  the radio station which directly broadcasts into prison cells across England and Wales. The station is run by the Prison Radio Association which aims to contribute to a reduction in reoffending using the power of radio.

Due to the Coronavirus epidemic, various measures have been introduced to curb the spread of the virus within prisons, with education classes, outside visitors, group activities, and pastoral care/chaplaincy visits dramatically reduced.

The first humanist broadcast, which airs today, gives a direct message to prisoners telling them to remember that they are not alone and that many people are thinking of them. Delivered by Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson, he paints a picture of how people are trying to cope with their own feelings of isolation, confinement, and loneliness as they live in ‘lockdown’ conditions, and the ways in which humanists are trying to overcome them. It also tells of the imperative role science is playing as scientists work hard around the world to develop a vaccine.

The broadcast also reminds non-religious prisoners of their legal rights to request and be provided with a humanist pastoral supporter in the same way that religious prisoners have rights to see a religious chaplain. Humanists UK is reaching out to its wide network of patrons to be guests on future broadcasts including Lord Alf Dubs, broadcaster and peer Joan Bakewell, philosopher Nigel Warburton, writer and philosopher A C Grayling, and author Christina Patterson.

Humanists UK’s Head of Humanist Care Jessica Grace said: ‘This is a wonderful new initiative that aims to bring a little more hope to prisoners during these really uncertain times. With non-religious pastoral care visits currently being cancelled due to the epidemic, we hope these broadcasts will provide some educational benefits and remind prisoners that we are thinking of them, and that they are not alone in having more feelings of anxiety and loneliness – it is very human to feel this way right now. As we roll out more of the broadcasts, we hope to cover other uplifting themes and bring some comedy and lightness to prisoners too.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Press Manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078 or 07393 344293.

Read more about pastoral carers and funeral celebrants work during the epidemic.

Read more about humanists entering Northern Ireland’s Maghaberry prison.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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