What do incarcerated people need from pastoral workers? What resources do pastoral workers need? How can they work best within the prison system? What can Catholic social thought contribute? And how can Catholic social thought be enhanced from listening to the prison context?

These questions were explored in a unique research project, Flourishing Inside, conducted at the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology (Cambridge, United Kingdom) led by Dr Elizabeth Phillips (2020 Research Fellow) with oversight from Dr Férdia Stone-Davis (Director of Research).

One of the central commitments of Catholic social thought is that every human being has inherent dignity and worth which need not be earned by anything they do and cannot be taken away by anyone or anything external to them. Another central commitment is that human beings are inherently social. We need one another and our interrelatedness makes us who we are. Both of these commitments, for Catholics and other Christians, arise from belief in the Triune God in whose image all human beings are made. Human beings flourish when their dignity is recognised and upheld, and when they have strong and healthy social bonds and relate to just social structures. What does it mean, then, to flourish inside a prison? Can chaplains and others who work with prison residents encourage and contribute to human flourishing even inside structures and conditions which deprive humans of some essential aspects of dignity and sociality? How can chaplains themselves flourish in their work inside? And what can people outside prisons learn about flourishing in life by listening to voices from inside prisons?

This website includes the project’s findings as well as resources for chaplains which the research identified as areas of need. The research included three areas of exploration:

  • listening to experiences from inside prisons through a focus group event with practitioners and individual interviews with former prison residents
  • analysing introductions to and resources for learning Catholic social thought
  • analysing previous research on prison chaplaincy in particular, as well as chaplaincy more generally and religion in prisons more broadly

In these pages we bring together these explorations to help our readers explore these questions and resources:

Flourishing Inside gratefully acknowledges our host institution, the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology.

We also gratefully acknowledge the Charles Plater Trust, a charitable fund supporting education and social justice, for the grant which made the entire project possible.