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A focus on faith work at Wetherby Young Offenders Institution

First published on: 28th May 2024

“Children” is the word used at Wetherby Young Offenders Institution to describe the young people convicted of serious crimes who are held in its care.

Its managing chaplain, Revd Andy Rowe has been in post since 2013 and together with chaplains from other faiths, he supports the residents, staff and its governor, Pete Gormley – who always uses “children” to describe the 15 to 18-year-olds on site.

“I see it that any child in prison, is society’s fault,” said Mr Gormley, during a visit by the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York to mark the 10th Anniversary of the Diocese of Leeds.

“We can’t undo a lifetime of trauma that they have suffered before they come here – but it’s what happens here and afterwards that’s so important.

“For many, this is the first place they have been cared for, the first place they have felt safe and also the first time that someone has said ‘no’ to them.”

Wetherby is home to some 160 young people with extremely complex needs.

Revd Andy Rowe summed up the caring offer that he and colleagues make to the youngsters they support: “Hope, and a chance,” he said.

“The Prison Service and the Church of England recognise the value of faith in holding the hope for all who find themselves in a custodial setting, whether it is those who are placed there by the courts and their families, or those of us who work in one.”

Archbishop Stephen, together with the Rt Revd Anna Eltringham, Bishop of Ripon, spoke with the chaplains, staff and young people during their visit and are pictured with Governor Mr Gormley.

The chaplains also seek to guide young people as they prepare to leave Wetherby, many of whom have gained new literacy and work skills, thanks to the education and training courses on offer.

On the faith centre wall, a handmade poster reads: “No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up and never, ever, give up.”

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