21 May 2007

"The love of a good woman" - by Revd Dr Alan Billings

Thought for the Day, 21 May 2007 by Rev Dr Alan Billings

I recently visited a Young Offender Institution. I talked to older teenage lads about their life before custody, to which they would soon return. Even allowing for exaggeration, their stories were disturbing - families without fathers, abuse and violence, absences from school, gangs and drugs. I asked one of the prison officers - whose whole life had been in the Prison Service - what he thought was powerful enough to change the patterns of behaviour they described. His answer took me by surprise. I thought he might say, 'They need to learn basic educational and social skills', or, 'They need a job' - both of which are important. But, after pausing, he said, 'I only know two things that are that powerful: the love of a good woman and religion'. He had seen young men change because they wanted to keep the love of a girl who didn't want a boyfriend whose behaviour got him into trouble with the law. He had seen others change under the influence of a religious faith. I should add that he had no idea that I was a priest. Now, although I don't doubt the truth of what he said, it does present those who are concerned in any way with policy-making with a difficulty. There is no way that the Youth Justice Board or the Prison Service can supply either girlfriends or religion.

But the Youth Justice Board and the Prison Service - and schools and youth groups - can provide access to tools - like talk2me - together with mentors who can help young people make sensible choices. Those who do are more likely to attract "the love of a good woman " and in doing so they are also more likely to find "religion".

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