A chaplain in Scotland’s largest prison who took over the correctional facility’s radio station during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic lockdown has been rewarded for her positivity and kindness.
The Rev. Jill Clancy ran the Barbed Wireless radio station at HMP Barlinnie, a prison for men with a capacity for 1,200 inmates in Glasgow, at a time when the prisoners who ran the station were confined to their cells because of the pandemic.
Calling herself DJ Jolly Jilly, Clancy recorded, edited and broadcast an hour-long program of music, quizzes and “thought for the day” twice a week while also attending to Sunday worship services, Catholic Mass and Muslim prayers.
In recognition of the care she provided to prisoners whose physical visits were curtailed, Teresa Medhurst, chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service, presented Clancy with a meritorious award.
The Scottish Prison Service praised Clancy’s work, saying she played a key role in helping prisoners cope during the pandemic’s worst phase.
“Being recognized for my contribution was a big surprise,” said Clancy, a Church of Scotland chaplain who has ministered at the prison for five years. “I was gobsmacked to be honest and couldn’t quite believe it.”
“It was so much fun and I am thrilled that being a presence in the prison helped just a little for all of us to get through a difficult time,” she said, referring not just to the inmates but to members of the penitentiary’s management and staff. “I did all that I could to help keep people’s spirits up.”
Clancy is a big fan of the late American country singer Johnny Cash, whose reputation for performing in prisons is unparalleled. One of Cash’s most famous albums was titled Folsom Prison Blues, named after the California prison where he performed for inmates.
Chaplains from the Church of Scotland minister in prisons. Clancy believes pastoral care is vital in supporting prisoners because those who have committed crimes need to be reminded about the importance of their lives.
“All the prisoners whom I work with are men and they are somebody’s son, father, uncle, brother and they matter,” Clancy said. “People need to know that they are loved and forgiven and if that gives them the strength to change and never to return to prison, we have done a good job.”
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