The Mission of the English Speaking Prisoners' Support Group (ESPSG) is to help English-speaking inmates of prisons in Bavaria.
The ESPSG arose from a public meeting in Munich called by Tony Smith in January 1991. Tony was an inspired, and inspiring, Christian who had recognised that there was a need to help English-speaking inmates of Stadelheim prison.
That meeting in 1991 changed the lives of dozens of people. Tony enchanted those present on that day with his quiet confidence and his obvious deep commitment to the service of his fellow men in need. Around twenty people committed themselves to the work at that initial meeting. But for fifteen long and frustrating months the ESPSG seemed to make little progress. Breaking into a prison seemed every bit as difficult as breaking out of a prison!
After two years Tony's efforts had finally borne fruit and the ministry had grown way beyond those first hopes. Members were visiting prisoners in Landsberg, Straubing, and Bernau as well as Stadelheim and were leading worship in English in Stadelheim and Bernau every quarter.
In 2002 Tony sadly died – however the ESPSG continues. We are a group of volunteers from many countries joined by a common vision. Whilst the group is supported by several of the English language churches in Munich, membership is open to all, regardless of religious persuasion.
We exchange letters with prisoners; we visit where this is practicable; we collect and distribute English language books and magazines; we lead Christian worship in English in prisons. We also try to meet other needs as they arise.
Our main focus of activity is with prisoners in Stadelheim prison in Munich and with the prisons in Aichach, Bamberg, Bayreuth und Landsberg. We also receive requests from prisoners in Amberg, Bernau, Kaisheim, Niederschönenfeldt, Straubing and Würzburg.
We don't hear only from English native speakers, but increasingly from Eastern Europeans and Germans, in fact anyone who can communicate in English. Prisoners hear about us from adverts on prison notice-boards, from leaflets distributed by chaplains and social workers or through consular officials. Some prisoners write after meeting us at a church service and others do so having heard of the group from another prisoner. Many people get to know us whilst waiting for trial in Stadelheim. After sentencing, they are transferred to other prisons and contact continues. This is one way that our name spreads from prison to prison.