Dr Chijioke Nwalozie said that ‘there are many saints in prison’ in the 2023 Sir Harold Hood Memorial Lecture.
Speaking on the theme, ‘The Church’s Participation in Prison Reform’, and drawing on scripture, Dr Nwalozie affirmed that, ‘When prisoners are poorly treated, the Church must act as a critical stakeholder and vanguard of prison reform’. When addressing the vital role of prison chaplains, he added an unscripted remark: ‘There are many saints in prison. Ask anyone working in chaplaincy and they will tell you.’
Pact is the national Catholic charity providing support to prisoners and their families across England and Wales. The Lecture is held in memory of the late prison reform champion and great friend to Pact, Sir Harold Hood.
Dr Nwalozie is a senior lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice at De Montfort University. Alongside his academic qualifications and prison chaplaincy experience, he is the founding director of Prisons Support Services Nigeria.
In keeping with Pact’s identity as a charity with its roots in the Catholic church, the evening provided nourishment for the head, heart and soul. Laura Manders gave a beautiful lived experience testimony in which she described her first ever uncertain attempts to pray, separated from her children and alone in her prison cell. Laura is a senior member of staff at Pact now.
The Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir communicated Pact’s mission and solidarity with those affected by imprisonment, through songs: Change the World, Amazing Grace (which prisoners return to many times), and to welcome the speaker, Wa Emimimo (a song from Nigeria which means Come Holy Spirit).
There were recurring themes of bringing hope and of human dignity during the formal part of the event as well as in the many conversations over wonderful refreshments later. It was a lively gathering of Pact staff, parish reps and volunteers together with members of the Hood family, of partner organisations, ecumenical friends and colleagues, chaplains, Dr Nwalozie’s own family and friends, and many people who care about how the values of faith can inform a better criminal justice system.