Keynote 1

Lost in wonder, love and praise’: Prayer and the road from crime.

Dr Ruth Amstrong, Co-Director of ‘Learning Together’, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge.

Ruth is a criminologist who has researched the role of faith and faith communities both within and after prison. More recently she has pioneered Learning Together, a prize-winning initiative linking universities and prisons to study alongside each other in inclusive and transformative learning communities. 

You can read more about her work at her academic web-page which includes several videos relating to her work.


This talk is grounded in research about the process of desistance from crime. Desistance theory is built from empirical research about how people move away from crime. Contrary to media portrayals and public perceptions research shows that most people who are convicted of criminal offences move away from offending behaviour across their life course. This process involves both individual and social elements which interact to make the route away from crime more or less likely. Ruth will draw on the words of the famous hymn, ‘Love Divine all Loves excelling’ by Charles Wesley, and findings from her research into the ways in which people rebuild their lives after prison, to question the extent to which Wesley’s pleas for the kinds of unceasing prayers that ‘fix in us Thy humble dwelling’, draw on ‘compassion’ and ‘unbounded love’, and crown ‘faithful mercies’, are defensible ways to think about praying and being in response to the harms of crime.