from manger to margins

In all of the Christmas rush my thoughts were pulled back to these men. Men whom I can now call brothers, men behind bars and watching Christmas happen through interminable hours in front of a TV screen. Nose pressed against glass, unable to reach through and touch. Those who lament the ‘easy’ nature of the prison system in which inhabitants ‘even have TVs in their cells!’ demonstrate a worrying attitude to what constitutes living.

Life is whiled away in a space so small every crack is seared into memory. The white noise from the box numbs the senses where the drugs don’t, whilst serving as a constant reminder of the life they are not living. Christmas: family, table, celebration, Saviour.

We know Christmas can be hard for many people for many reasons. Any sense that our own feelings don’t match the neon joy blinding us from every angle at this time of year can make us feel pushed to the margins. How far outside the margin they must be feeling right now.

As my heart chewed this over, Jesus whispered again that it is for the marginalised that he has come. He comes in a manger, in a dirty forgotten corner of the town, God incarnate. He came for the margins, he dwells there still and he is coming back for them. From manger to margin – this is where we will find him this Christmas and always.

How I pray this will filter through the white noise and be whispered to their hearts during this season. Knowing that it is for them that Christmas happened at all. Joy of Emmanuel may you rise up in the margins, singing the eternal song which says: ‘I did this for you’.

on last letters

I know his prisoner ID number by heart. The address of the prison, even the postcode. I know the sound of his voice when he calls. The guessing game – will it be a happy call, an anxious call, a disastrous call.

I met him in thick snow in Manchester, wore hiking boots with a suit and felt silly next to Fancy Lawyer in killer heels. I walked through the grounds which has seen one of the biggest prisoner uprisings in recent memory and was surprised to see primary-coloured flowers planted in neat rows beneath the barbed wire.

Then we were face to face. Him looking broody in the red bib and he shook my hand, not meeting my eyes. I had to ask him to stop shouting when he got angry. Ever since, he would always stop himself when he realised and laugh at himself. Continue reading

on the legal aid cuts

Q sought our assistance with sentence planning whilst detained in a Category B prison on the Isle of Wight. Having recently been granted Category D status – effectively a ticket to an open prison which facilitates the process of effective resettlement into the community – he was keen to arrange for this transfer as soon as possible. Continue reading