Opening the Bible on the inside of prison

A new Corrective Services Bible aims to support those who uphold the law

“You are exposed to all of these things which really make you wonder about life.” So shares Assistant Superintendent Bradley Lawless, about his work with Corrective Services NSW during the past 15 years.

He’s seen a lot working with inmates, including spending his first five years in the job dealing with child sexual abuse cases. Admitting that he can have a suspicious mind about people in general, Lawless knows it can take something extraordinary to shine light into the darkness of human failings.

“Everywhere I have been, [Christian faith] tends to be there in the dark times.” – Bradley Lawless

“You need positivity – and you might not find that in a correctional setting right away,” says Lawless. “So you’re going to need other things. External things, such as better relationships, better stories.”

Having moved into staff training and development before being seconded to the Office of the Sheriff of NSW, Lawless is a big believer in the better story told by God’s word. “Everywhere I have been, [Christian faith] tends to be there in the dark times.”

A desire to open the Bible and uphold its relevance – even to a workplace as hard-hitting and challenging as correctional facilities – caused Lawless to jump at the opportunity to help with a customised Corrective Services NSW edition of the Bible.

Supported by Bible Society Australia, the Corrective Services NSW Bible has been about five years in the making. Due for release soon, the custom Bible involved many supporters and contributors, including Lawless, and several prison chaplains such as Jodie Gilmour.

Gilmour is administration officer for chaplaincy services in Corrective Services NSW, and works with Rev. Dr Keith Mascord, the NSW Chaplaincy Co-ordinator. Mascord also backed the idea of a custom Bible, as did former director of Brush Farm Corrective Services Academy, Gary McCahon, who helped get the project up and running.

Part of the drive behind this project was a desire to enhance the ministry of chaplaincy to CSNSW staff, through the provision of a custom Bible for them. Prison chaplains in NSW don’t just minister to inmates; their ministry extends to all who work in correctional centres.

Lawless previously served in the Australian Defence Force. He experienced first-hand the difference that can be made when dedicated Christian chaplains are there to support those on law enforcement’s frontline – as they go through spiritual and emotional battles.

Along with others who forged the new Corrective Services NSW Bible, Lawless put his own time into locating extra materials for it. Similar to other custom versions of God’s word backed by Bible Society Australia, the Corrective Services NSW Bible includes pertinent content such as how to conduct remembrance services, and prayers for Correctional Officers.

“We tried to make it practical; everything in it you can use – and it’s still got God’s word,” describes Lawless simply about what the specialised version aims to do.

NSW Ambulance chaplains also will be equipped soon with Bible versions for the staff they support. Across Australia this year, chaplains with Australian Federal Police, as well as the WA and Victoria Police forces, will also receive a fresh supply of reprinted custom Bibles.

Bible Society Australia is motivated to support such custom Bible versions for specific workplaces, so chaplains can appropriately encourage staff to read them.

“The idea is you have got something to refer to in the Bible itself … about ethics, being tested and being in a dark place.” – Bradley Lawless

Lawless hopes that opening the Bible in a place like the prison system will be a huge benefit to workers striving to uphold the law.

Admitting that a very small element of Corrective Services NSW staff have had issues with doing the right thing all the time, Lawless knows God’s word continues to offer relevant guidelines for best practice. It also offeres the deeper hope of being able to hold on to God’s light, no matter what you encounter.

“We looked at things like how there are ethics in the Bible and ways to live,” says Lawless about how the Corrective Services NSW Bible draws attention to certain aspects of God’s word.

“If you behave in a way as if you think you are being watched, you are less likely to do that thing.

“The idea is you have got something to refer to in the Bible itself … about ethics, being tested and being in a dark place.”

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