Pagans are being sought for UK prisoners to ensure the needs of Druid and Wiccan detainees are met. The Ministry of Justice is looking to provide for Polytheistic prisoners who currently have no recourse to their religious needs. Experienced practitioners of what is said to be one of the world’s oldest religion are wanted to “act as faith advisor in the establishment providing advice, pastoral care and spiritual welfare to prisoners, staff and their families as requested,” according to the advert.
Prisoners have the right to see a chaplain of their faith for one hour per week. And, it wouldn’t be right to deny the Pagans, would it? The person selected to “provide for the religious care of prisoners and staff in the Pagan faith tradition” is set to be paid £29,176 (US$40,000) pro rata.
The Ministry of Justice recognizes Paganism, including Wicca, Druidry, and Odinism, as a religion and has guidance for prison staff and management on how to cater for Pagan prisoners. The job description on the government website asks for incumbents who can work in the Isle of Wight and in Winchester, Styal, Hindley, Manchester, and Risley, and in Erlestoke and Guys Marsh.
However, the right candidate must possess “the confidence and expertise to lead open ritual, officiate in Rites of Passage, and run workshops for mixed Pagan traditions within the prison system.” Ministry of Justice figures show there are 1,605 prisoners with faith outside of the major religions. There are around 40 prison chaplains whose faith is “unknown” working in the prison system.
Odinists, who worship Germanic and Nordic gods, are delivered private sermons in prison. Ralph Harrison, director of the Odinist Fellowship, told that his organization deals with around 12 individuals. However, he thinks the job ad is too vague.
“There is a tendency to lump together historic pagan beliefs with modern traditions and witchcraft-based beliefs, which obviously will help simplify things for the prison services, but is not really in keeping with our religious outlook.
“We do offer a limited chaplaincy service, or a support service, for a small number of Odinists who are in prison or who have become Odinists while in prison. We have concentrated on making sure that they have Odinist literature, especially the Eddas, which are equivalent to the Bible or the Koran which are made available to Christian or Muslim prisoners and are not always available in prisons to Odinists.”
Chaplains inside prisons need incense, pentagram necklaces, crystals, a chalice and a flexible twig for a wand to work. Prisons are currently understaffed and are being subjected to funding cuts.
A spokesman for Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service said: “We recognize the importance of faith and the positive impact that it can have on the lives of offenders, which is why there are multi-faith chaplaincy teams in every prison.”