Mining for God

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Mining for God


I recently had the privilege of talking to a former Chief Inspector of Prisons, about his work. My interest in his work came from my previous role as Headteacher, where some children had parents in prison, it was heart breaking for the family on so many levels. In his prison report were points I hadn’t given much thought to, other points were completely new to me, and yet others gave me hope. For so many, if a crime has been committed, the attitude is “lock them up”, and for some serious crimes – “and throw away the key” is added. If I’m being honest, I too have said that, at times when I’ve watched or read about a heinous crime.


In the Chief Inspector’s report, he quoted an American Judge, Dennis Challeen who said:


“We want them to have self-worth

So, we destroy their self-worth

We want them to be responsible

So, we take away all responsibility

We want them to be positive and constructive

So, we degrade them and make them useless

We want them to be trustworthy

So, we put them where there is no trust

We want them to be non-violent

So, we put them where violence is all around them

We want them to be kind and loving people

So, we subject them to hatred and cruelty

We want them to quit being the tough guy

So, we put them where the tough guy is respected

We want them to quit hanging around losers

So, we put all the losers under one roof”


What a truth in the judge’s words.


I came across a quote recently that said “God is within everyone even if due to someone’s attitude or behaviour, it seems otherwise. Everyone has at least one positive trait if we can open our hearts and minds”.

Often the people who are hardest to love – are those who need loved the most. So, we need to do some “Mining for God” and look for that “Divine Diamond” that’s within everyone. This Divinity is there, but is layered up with so much hurt, pain, anxiety, low self-esteem, disappointment, fear……, it is deeply hidden.


In my job, I had the opportunity of working with families who lived lives completely out with my experience. It was humbling to listen to their stories. Some lived with domestic violence and poverty, others lived with drug and alcohol addiction, which led to crime, at times, serious crime.


It wasn’t rocket science to realise how these horrendous experiences impacted on families, and how they lived their lives in fear and uncertainty. What the children experienced are now known as ACEs – Adverse Childhood Experiences. Evidence has shown that the more ACEs a child lives with or experiences, the higher the probability of them ending up on a very challenging life path too, often criminal and leading them to prison. The importance of early intervention, support and education is key in working towards changing this perpetuating cycle.  I often listened to children and families share their stories of despair and felt anger towards the parent/carer causing the distress.


At these times, I couldn’t see the “Divine Diamond” in the mum or dad. I was unable to open my heart and mind and look for the positive traits they had.

We all have a task to look at why some people turn to crime and what can be done to help prevent it.


There needs to be greater partnership working between organisations that can work with prisons, to support education and skills development. There also has to be emotional rehabilitation too, such as anger management, building self-esteem and greater self- belief. The people in prisons need help to find their gifts and skills, which are unique to them. People who break the law, do need to spend time in prison, as crimes can’t be ignored, however, it’s what happens in prisons that’s crucial.


Brene Brown quotes in Rising Strong that prisoners who have committed heinous crimes, such as terrorists, serial killers, serial rapists and assassins still need assessed to see if they can be helped, and if they can’t, they need to remain in prison. This is the most humane approach and safer for communities” Compassion needs to be partnered with accountability,


The Chief Inspector coined a wonderful phrase, that a “A better Scotland would have better prisons, and better prisons would give us a better Scotland”, I believe this could be said of any country, what about you?


Rae Walker




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