• Opening the Doors by Paul Gill - book cover

Opening the Doors

A Prison Chaplain’s Life on the Inside

by Paul Gill, Foreword by Archbishop Roger Herft


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How does a holy God associate with paedophiles, murderers, drug addicts, alcoholics and others rejected by mainstream society? This book is a product of many years working with and in some cases befriending the most despised people in society, prisoners. It addresses questions such as: Why do some people end up in prison? Do they just wake up one morning and think: ‘I am going to rob a bank today’? What happens when they get to prison? How do they cope with the violence? Is rehabilitation a realistic expectation? How can victims of crime be helped and supported?

Ideal for outsiders, volunteers and others helping out with prisoners. Contains wise advice based on years of experience. Places imprisonment in a Christian context. Captures the essence of why some people end up in prison.


‘If there is one book that should be made available not only to prison chaplains, but to all who work, visit, live or are connected with prisons in any way, then this is it. It combines description, theology, theory and practice in a format that is easy to read and illustrated in colour, but doesn’t make for easy reading. It challenges preconceptions of crime, criminality and chaplaincy practices.’– Quakers in Criminal Justice.

‘The book is of particular use for people of the Christian faith who might be considering a career or volunteering in the criminal justice system with the opening chapter providing a useful overview of life on the inside for people who are uninitiated with prison life. However, Gill’s approach to looking for the parallel human experiences between life on the inside and that on the out are also useful for anyone working in the system … I found this an interesting book and one which I would readily share with anyone who wanted to know what life was really like in prison and also with anyone who might wish to just write off those who have found themselves ‘on the inside’. It shows the depth and challenge of the human experience adapting to imprisonment and as such provides practitioners with a useful reminder that the people they work with are primarily people who have offended rather than offenders who they need to manage.’– Dr Dave Wood, Founder and Director of Metanoeo CIC.

‘Shines with a conviction that God loves all people, including the worst offender and it criticises all those aspects of the justice system which dehumanise people’– Rev Michael Ranyard.

‘A text where life in the raw meets life in all its fullness, opening a door to hope’– Roland Riem PhD, Vice Dean, Winchester Cathedral.

‘Gives unique insights into the work of the chaplain and the lives of the prisoners … I can recommend it to anybody interested in the prison service, or who works with people who have been in, or might have to go, to prison’– Andy Butterfill (who runs a winter shelter)

The following reviews were for the 1st edition:

‘Exceptionally insightful, not to say riveting. There is good theology too and difficult issues are addressed with great humanity. The lavish presentation makes the book especially accessible and invites further reading and reflection’– Michael Hirst .

‘Handsomely-produced … a handbook for future prison chaplains, Opening the Doors is indispensable, beginning with the first day on the job, the processes involved and the nexus between prison, community and justice system … Rarely is the inner world of prisoners offered with such detail and precision … Every reader will learn something new … whether it be the day-to-day life of chaplains or searing insights into the spirit and nature of humanity itself, drawn from unsparing reality. Ultimately it is Gill’s sheer honesty and those of the prisoners themselves that remains with the reader.’– Dr Toby Davidson, lecturer at Macquarie University, Sydney, editor of Francis Webb’s Collected Poems and author of the critical study Christian Mysticism and Australian Poetry.

‘Knitting together stories and facts about the prison experience to provide an insight into this world, and a helpful guide to anyone wanting to work within it’– Catholic Record.

‘The book itself matches what a day working inside of prison is like. For example: the language is coarse and honest; the stories are jarring and emotive; the artworks and layout keep you guessing as to what is going to be around the next corner. Gill’s reflective poetry interspersed examines the role and the emotions of the chaplain … Gill’s book should be a guide to prison chaplaincy as it gives a window to humanising the dehumanised. The book reminds us that there is a person behind the wall, isolated and hurting, who needs peace and grace: without diminishing the effect of their actions or the damage caused to others and the need for justice. The stories that are included are varied and poignant’– tasmaniananglican.com.au

‘Raw and real, confronting and challenging, brutally honest tinged with touches of humour, and provides the reader with a valuable insight into a prisoner’s life … The book is beautifully produced, colourful and easy to read’– crosslight.org.au

‘A timely and realistic introduction to, and insight into, a system that most people are not exposed to … Paul’s book is a passionate and accurate insight into life on the inside. It looks at the process of incarceration and its effects on people … This is a good book and highly recommended’– The Melbourne Anglican.

‘This attractively colourful edition shines a light not only into the depths of prison life but into the innermost thoughts and feelings of its inmates. A powerful account, occasionally confronting yet laced with humour and pathos… It is raw and real, confronting and challenging, brutally honest tinged with touches of humour, providing the reader with a valuable insight into a prisoner’s life behind the razor-wire… beautifully produced, colourful and easy to read’– Reverend Graham Wright, Senior Prison Chaplain for the Anglican Diocese of Perth.


Paul Gill, an Anglican Minister, has spent most of his ministry working in places where the majority of the population live in the midst of challenging economic and social circumstances. Communities with dilapidated housing stock, high unemployment, crime, vandalism, substance and alcohol abuse; high rates of truanting from school, leading to inadequate education; unacceptable levels of poverty and homelessness. This included ten years working as a prison chaplain in maximum security prisons.

Additional information

Weight522 g
Dimensions298 × 211 × 11 mm

Foreword author

Archbishop Roger Herft


Waterside Press




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Place of origin

United Kingdom

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