Each prison establishment has a number of chaplains who provide for the spiritual guidance of prisoners and other members of the prison community.

Key elements

Chaplains in Northern Ireland are appointed by the Justice Minister after having been nominated for the various posts by the Governing Authority of their respective churches.

Chaplains carry out a wide range of duties. In addition to providing pastoral care for prisoners on a one-to-one basis they also conduct weekly services and on occasions officiate at weddings and christenings within the prison. Chaplains also arrange religious study classes and when necessary visit the families of prisoners. They are involved in the prisoner induction programme and other prisoner programmes.

Five churches are represented in each prison: Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian, Free Presbyterian and Methodist. Muslim inmates are attended by the imam.

Chaplains association

In the late 1960's chaplains in Northern Ireland formed an Association to look after their own interests. Members of the Chaplains Committee meet on a regular basis with Governors and Headquarters' officials to discuss issues and problems. An annual conference for all chaplains is organised in collaboration with the Chaplains Association.

Examples of good practice

The Prison Service has a duty to provide for the pastoral needs of prisoners of other faiths and a register of pastors and ministers of minority faiths, willing to provide pastoral care for prisoners, is maintained. When the need arises, prisoners registered as other faiths for which no chaplains are appointed, may on request receive a visit from a Pastor or Minister of their own religion.

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