Funding crisis threatens work of prison ministry

An evangelist says his ministry among prisoners has come under threat as a result of a funding crisis brought on by the financial crisis.

Former prisoner and heroin addict, Barry Woodward, is aiming to send a copy of his book ‘Once an Addict’ to every prisoner in the country, a figure which stands at around 94,000.

So far, he has been able to send out 28,000 of his books but funding woes mean that he is unable to fulfil current orders.

“The response has been amazing. The letters we receive here at the offices each week just show what an impact the book in making in UK HMPs,” he said.

“When we started this project it got off with ground with a flying start but the recession has caused the funds to dry up, and this year we have hardly sent any books out at all.'

“We have orders for books – about 15,000 at the moment. Some chaplains ordered these over a year ago but we have not been able to send them out, due to the lack of funds.

“For £1.50p a book we can get it into the hands of a prisoner, so for £150, we can get a hundred books into the hands of a hundred inmates.”

Woodward is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God and an associate evangelist with J John. He set up Proclaim Trust to reach out to mentor evangelists and train local churches in reaching out to prisoners.

He says he wants to take a “message of hope” into Britain’s prisons and is calling on the church to do more to take the Gospel to prisoners.

“I used to think I had wasted my life, but when God got hold of it, He turned the mess into a message. People in prison have messed up, but God cares about those people and they can have a new start. God has a plan for their lives,” he said.

“We need to do more in the UK church to help those in prison. It is so easy to give up on people when they are on drugs and in prison - and most of the 80,000 people in this country in prison are there for drug-related offences. But God didn't give up on me.”