Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice
COMMENDEE 2011-12: Tariq is Co-ordinating Chaplain at HMP Whitemoor and is commended for his work on behalf of prisoners of all faiths in the prison, in an extremely demanding environment.
[Tariq Mahmood gives his account of the work for which he was awarded a Commendation]
Security plays significant role in prison setting that is why good practice in correctional settings requires sensitive, extra vigilant and cooperative approach to attain the set targets. Being conscious of the fact highlighted I used my spiritual upbringing, religious academic background and my chaplain status to attain rehabilitative objective of British prison through good practice.
I develop an innovative restorative justice programme for Muslim prisoners which make the participants realise that crime does not pay. The students are taking on a learning journey reflecting on the story of Adam as described in the Quran to understand the ripple effects wrong doings. Each of the participants analyses the ripple effect of his own crime on him, his family, community, country and the whole society. The participants are encouraged to commence the journey of repairing the damages caused by committed crimes using the example of Adam who had been able to purify by seeking true repentance from God. Twelve prisoners applied for the course they were interviewed. The participants were interviewed before coming on to the course to measure their understanding of religious and ability to use religious guidance during the journey of self reformation.
Each of the session has been designed into three sections. Section one includes reflection where a topic is discussed, the participants are invited to share their personal understanding and experiences. The prisoners had been given opportunity to relate religious guidance to their personal situation.
One of Muslim prisoners appeared quite reluctant to take part in any non religious activities because in his views he was victim of the system. In the last session during feedback session he said that the course had helped him in understanding the fact that it is his religious responsibility to avail all available resources to utilize the potential gifted by God. He is working in the workshop and taking part in ESOL classes arranged by the establishment. His personal officer told me that his attitude has been improved at the wing as well. This provided me satisfaction and confirmation. The chaplaincy as a part of wider team can fill the gaps and indirectly help the process of rehabilitation by motivating their faith community to take part in rehabilitative prison regime. Faith can act as a catalyst to bring real change.
[The following article appeared in issue 4 of the Butler Trust’s magazine, Inspire]
When Tariq Mahmood joined the chaplaincy team at HMP Whitemoor, the prison had been struggling to recruit an Imam – a situation that reflected the complex and challenging role they would need to perform. With its high percentage of Muslim prisoners, Whitemoor has its faith provision scrutinised intensely by the media, non-governmental organisations and legal representatives, so it is essential that activities are balanced and appropriate.
Tariq’s work as coordinating chaplain has earned him a Butler Trust commendation. His strong leadership and spiritual guidance are available to prisoners of all faiths, including the many impressionable young men who are at risk of terrorist influences while serving long sentences.
‘I believe talking, openness and awareness are key to resolving issues,’ says Tariq, who has improved faith awareness training, established strategies against extremism and – as part of a strategy to challenge the misinterpretation of religious texts – set up a faith library. ‘This way I could help those who were really interested in improving their faith, but also challenge robustly those who would seek to radicalise followers of the Islamic faith,’ he says.
In his future work, Tariq would like to use religious guidance as a rehabilitative strategy, alongside other reoffending courses and programmes, and is working on teaching religious courses in a dialogical style. This, he says, ‘would help teach those who wish to radicalise others that this is not in line with teachings of the Quran.’
For more information: contact HMP Whitemoor