The Custodial Review editor Victoria Galligan spoke to Sally Treloar, development manager and course facilitator at the Imago Dei Prison Ministry, about plans to open a house for female offenders on their release from prison.

A registered charity, Imago Dei Prison Ministry already works in three prisons offering various courses – including a parenting course – and providing pastoral support, as well as Bible study.

The charity are looking forward to opening Grace House (Grace stands for growth, resettlement, acceptance, comfort and encounter). Sally said, “We hope to open the house in the summer to autumn 2019. There is lots of work underway to get us to that point! At the moment we are looking at opening a property in the Sevenoaks area of Kent.

“We aim to have up to 12 women staying with us for a period of around four months to two years. Although we are a Christian organisation we will take women of all faiths (and none) and offer life skills programmes and help them to find good, safe housing and work for when they leave us – all in an environment of love, care, understanding and support.” Imago Dei Prison Ministry - two women talk on sofa

Grace House will be staffed by employees as well as volunteers. Key workers and support workers, as well as Preparation Training course facilitators who will work with the women, will be vital in the work which Imago Dei Prison Ministry do there.    

Sally added, “Our aim is to empower women to be all that they can be through our Preparation Training programme of courses. We will also offer on going support once they leave the house should they need it.  

“I read recently that there are nearly 4,000 women in prison, and around one-third of women prisoners lose their homes, and often their possessions, while in prison.  A Prisons Inspectorate survey found that 38% of women in prison did not have accommodation arranged on release. 

“We know that this work is vital and have personally seen the effects that not having a safe place to stay has on women leaving prison.”

So how are the plans to open Grace House moving along? “Our main focus at the moment is finding a suitable building. We are looking for a house that works for us and is presented in such a way that we wouldn't mind living there ourselves! And of course we need money to fund it all.”

For more information on Imago Dei Prison Ministry, click here.