tread lightly, for you tread on my dreams

i was invited to Channings Wood and Exeter Prisons last week to do some workshops with the men who are inside. Channings Wood is Cat C prison, which is medium-low security, Exeter is Cat B, which is medium-high security. In Exeter I was working with men who were in the Vulnerable Persons Unit, which is the equivalent of our Protection unit. There were 15 to 20 men in each workshop… I’m used to working with 6…

Prisons in the UK are so different to those at home. I could breathe in Channings Wood. I could see how possible it would be to come out better. I was surprised at both prisons by how unobtrusive the security was. Staff and officers were issued with radios, which meant that there weren’t the omnipresent announcements over the speakers. At Channings Wood I hardly saw an officer all day. I could take a bag into both prisons – and it was searched in neither! I wasn’t screened! Georgina could take in my memory stick! They had data projectors in the chapels! They had chapels!

I wonder how much our system in Australia drags people down. I think the omnipresent speakers wear on peoples’ psyche. I think they also mean that people become used to every thought being interrupted. very few of the men I’ve worked with in the prisons in Australia would be able to hold a train of thought for 1 or 2 hours, yet that wasn’t a problem here. That was the biggest surprise to me. I think we dumb the men down, back home.

Exeter was certainly the darker of the prisons. I also thought that we were up for an impossible task there, just because I hadn’t met the men before the moment they walked in for the workshop. In Channings Wood I had the morning to meet some of the men, learn their names, get a feel for the place. But in the end it didn’t seem to matter in Exeter. In both prisons, the results were stunning and surprising. It’s testament to the genre of the Psalms that they connect so immediately and intimately.

I brought over a candle from Australia, one which I use in Port Phillip Prison. We lit it at the beginning of the workshops and I read Alf and Phil’s psalms before offering the opportunity for the men to write their own. It’s a remarkable thing, to watch men start something that they believe is impossible, then to be the recipient of their trust when they give it to you to read, then to watch them get the courage to read it to a group; and at the end almost all of them wanted to have the world read their psalms. So here are some of them. I’ll put more up over the next few weeks. They speak of remarkable things, and i think they are indeed worthy of a place in the bible.

Psalm of Lament

I am troubled by the life that I have taken, so easy to take and yet so hard to live with, a flash of anger causes lives of despair.

It hurts me to admit that I want to be forgiven, but how do you accept forgiveness, when you cannot forgive yourself.

I despair for the pain that I have caused, to Liam’s family, my own, and yes to myself.

In my silence, i cry for the joy of your compassion and love, my Lord.

I want God to know that though I am a sinner I want and need your redemption my Lord.

If only God could give me what I need, I know that I could live a life of goodness and joy.

If I could only show or remind God of this
then God would know that my cry is sincere.

Kevin, Channings Wood

Psalm of hope

I waited patiently, Lord for you to hear my prayer.
You listened and pulled me from a lonely pit full of mud and mire.
You let me stand on a rock with my feet firm,
and you gave me a new song,
a song of praise to you.

I feel joy when I come to the Lord’s house
all my pain and trouble leave me for a while
so the Lord can come into my heart.

I am hopeful when I sit and pray with the Lord
it’s like I am reborn again
it’s the best feeling ever.

You, Lord, never fail to have pity on me;
your love and faithfulness
always keep me secure.

I know God’s love when my pain is gone
and replaced with love
and honour to share his love with other people.

My deepest desire is to be free from all the walls
and to share what God has given me
to other people and help them
from the dark room into the light.

I have more troubles than I can count.
My sins are all around me, and I can’t find my way.
My sins outnumber the hairs on my head, and I feel weak. Please show that you care and come to my rescue.
Hurry and help me.

I ask God for forgiveness for my troubles
and for the pain I’ve caused upon others
and let me be a leader and show the good work that God can do
he has done so much for me
he has kept me alive
to carry on the good work.

Simon, Channings Wood

Psalm of Lament


I am troubled by the conflict that is my mind,
troubled by the dirty water that has passed under the bridge
the sin of time passed.

It hurts me to admit that I too am a hypocrite,
always judging, always having something to say of others’ mistakes.

I despair for myself, wallowing in self pity. Becoming angry and lashing out at those who do not deserve.

In my silence I cry for someone to love me as I love all
So much contradiction in my life,
So much self destruction.

I want God to know that I know he is there and he does watch me.
I feel sometimes he must cringe at the things I do.

If only God would make me stronger on the right path,
take from me free will and replace this with discipline.

If I could only show or remind God that I am full of love
then God wold know that I am genuinely wanting him in my life
and that I am sorry for not being good at the game of life.

Craig, Exeter

Psalm of Hope
I waited patiently, Lord, for you to hear my prayer.
You listened and pulled me from a lonely pit full of mud and mire.
You let me stand on a rock with my feet firm,
and you gave me a new song,
a song of praise to ou.

I feel joy when I see my family and friends
even if it is a letter from them, God.

I am hopeful when I hear from my family and when I can talk to you, God.

You Lord, never fail to have pity on me;
your love and faithfulness
always keep me secure.

I know God’s love when I can talk to him and pray to you, God
and tell you things that hurt me.

My deepest desire is for me to look and care for my family when I am free and to take care of myself and to care for people.

I have more troubles than I can count.
My sins are all around me, and I can’t find my way.
My sins outnumber the hairs on my head, and I feel weak.
Please show that you care and come to my rescue.
Hurry and help me!

I ask God to forgive me and to take good care of my family
and to help me stop cutting myself
and help me to be more positive about myself than just drinking everyday
to forget about my past and to look to the future.

Stuart, Exeter