Non-religious prisoners’ unequal access to pastoral care

Prisoners have long been recognised as a disenfranchised group. This paper positions non-religious prisoners as further excluded from pastoral care. While chaplaincies aim to serve prisoners of all faiths and none, this paper suggests a hierarchy of access in which the benefits of chaplaincy are more available to some prisoners than others. Shortcomings in secular care mean that non-religious offenders are often the only group unable to connect with like-minded people and it is argued that they are disadvantaged as a result. The paper also explores the challenges for pastoral carers seeking to support inmates equally. It considers the barriers on both sides of the care relationship, specifically the disincentives to chaplaincy engagement faced by prisoners of no faith and the obstacles encountered by the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network in accessing service users and delivering care. Finally, recommendations are made to narrow the gaps between religious and non-religious prisoners.


University of Lincoln, College of Social Science Research

Katie Hunt, University of Lincoln, Lincoln Law School