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Trusting the Untrustworthy The theology, practice and implications of faith-based volunteers’ work with ex-prisoners Dr. Ruth Armstrong,

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Presentation on theme: "Trusting the Untrustworthy The theology, practice and implications of faith-based volunteers’ work with ex-prisoners Dr. Ruth Armstrong,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Trusting the Untrustworthy The theology, practice and implications of faith-based volunteers’ work with ex-prisoners Dr. Ruth Armstrong, Prisons Research Centre, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge

2 ‘Tis impossible to separate the chance of good from the risk of ill (David Hume, 1978)

3 Understanding trust  There is a difference between good trust and bad trust (Baeir, 1986)  Motivations are important in discerning ‘good trust’ (Baeir, 1986)  Assessments of trustworthiness are important in discerning ‘good trust’ (Gambetta and Hamill, 2005)  There is a ‘dynamic potential in trust interactions’ (Hawley, 2012, see also Pettit, 1995)  ‘Intelligent trust’ encourages good governance (O’Neill, 2002)

4 In search of ‘good trust’  What are our motivations for trusting/being trustworthy and would knowledge of them strengthen a trust relationship?  How well do we assess trustworthiness?  Will our trust facilitate good governance, which includes appropriate levels of self-governance?

5 Findings:  Volunteers’ theology undergirded their practice of proactive trust  The premise for their trust was their motivation to serve God rather than save man  Their practice of proactive trust had the power to broker trust because it demonstrated the volunteers as trustworthy.  The pragmatics of proactive trust involved connecting through sharing struggles and vulnerabilities.  Proactive trust encouraged honest communication of successes and failures.

6 The ‘premise’ of proactive trust I don’t struggle with alcoholism, I don’t struggle with drug addiction, I don’t struggle with some of the sins that our society have said is wrong and will incarcerate you. I struggle with other ones: greed, selfishness – in fact, our society tells me I ought to be greedy and I ought to be selfish, they promote that … and those sins are just as ugly - if not uglier - to God than alcoholism or addiction. And the grace that God has shown me says I’ve got to have grace with these people … I think about that seventy times seven, and so that’s seeing God’s grace and they [convicts] have taught me how graceful God is to me. (Ted, volunteer)

7 The ‘promise’ of faith-based proactive trust My motivation was not to go in to try to rescue anybody, my motivation is that it’s an expression of service to Christ for me. (Mac, volunteer) This is one of the real positive things about the faith-based programme. They [the volunteers] are spiritual, God-fearing people. They’re doing this out of their sense of obligation to God to help other people. It’s their ministry, their role in life. This is what they do and it’s part of their worship. (George, Muslim ex-prisoner)

8 The ‘practice’ of proactive trust I remember I told one female [volunteer] in one of them classes when I first got there, I said ‘Miss, I don’t know you, I don’t trust you, I don’t wanna talk to you’. And that woman did not give up on me, and you know, she’s a good woman, she didn’t just give up on me. Q: Did you talk to her? A: You know, eventually I did, because she was real, and once I was able to see that she was real with what she was doing, she was sincere, it was easier for me to talk to her. (Morris, ex-prisoner)

9 The ‘pragmatics’ of proactive trust When you elect to come in and open up to me about the things that happened in your life, that gets me curious to tell you things that happened in my life, knowing it’s not going any further than right here. Having the volunteers that’s been through some of the same things that we’ve been through, and them sharing about themselves helps. I know it helped me to be more open about sharing the struggles and the pain that I’ve caused in my life. (Pops, ex-prisoner)

10 Proactive Trust: Inputs not outcomes You better have thick skin when you go into this thing because be prepared to be disappointed. And you’re not doing it because of any reward you’re going to get, you’re doing it because you’re obeying God, and the results are up to Him. Because you’d better be prepared to invest a year of your life on somebody and then watch him throw it away, because it might happen, and I realise that. (Mac, volunteer)

11 Proactive trust: Potentiating the trust-response You’ve got to build up a closeness and a trust, a level of trust, you know, like Big G when he fell off the wagon there, he called me … he called me on a borrowed cell phone from under a bridge and … he knew, I mean he had the trust that I was a person he could call and that I would be there, and that I would come and get him, you know. (Brian, volunteer)

12 Proactive trust: Potentiating the trust-response He was just crushed. And I said ‘[Tom] that’s great!’ And he said ‘that’s not great.’ I said ‘that’s great because you realised that you shouldn’t have been there and you called me and you did something about it and we’re talking about it.’ I said, ‘it’s bad when you’re doing it and you keep doing it more and more and pretty soon you are back into the same cycle, but when you have realised that you’ve done something that you don’t want to do and you corrected it, you know, the bad part is when you keep doing it and keep spiralling downwards and don’t say anything to anybody.’ (Greg, volunteer)

13 Implications: Is proactive trust ‘good trust’?  What were the volunteers motivations for trusting/being trustworthy and did they strengthen the trust relationship?  Serving God not saving man passed the ‘expressibility test’.  Did they place trust in the trustworthy?  They approached people as potentially, if not actually, trustworthy.  Did their trust facilitate good governance, which includes appropriate levels of self-governance?  Yes. Through providing trust that could withstand disappointments.

14 Proactive Trust – Assisting Desistance?  Involves aligning actions to values  Quest for virtues is part of desistance (Bottoms and Shapland, 2014)  Exposure to virtues can support desistance (McNeill and Farrall, 2013)  Involves exercising agency  Autonomy and subjectivity are important in reformation (Werth, 2011)  Working with offenders, not on them (McNeill et al., 2012)  Involves ‘diachronic self-control’  (Bottoms and Shapland, 2011)  Prospectively studied is a tentative process involving relapses  Assisting desistance involves ‘managing setbacks and difficulties constructively’ (McNeill et al., 2012)

15 Nurturing virtues - supporting desistance Bestowing unearned trust helps to nurture the ‘gifts of imperfection’: COURAGE to communicate COMPASSION in the face of shame CONNECTION through vulnerability (Brown, 2010) These are virtues that have currency in life post-release.

16 “What ever matters to human beings, trust is the atmosphere in which it thrives.” (Sissela Bok, 1978)

17 Questions to think about:  Are multi-faith rooms locations of trust? Why? Why not?  What tools do chaplains have to foster trusting relationships with prisoners and staff?  Could training for volunteers be improved to help foster trust?


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