Pope says prison should not just be about repression, but should offer a chance for redemption
“Many times society, through legalistic and inhumane decisions, justified by an alleged search for the good and security, seeks the isolation and detention of those who act against social norms as the final solution to the problems of life in community.” However, no one can change their life if they see nothing on the horizon, even when the they are in for life.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis spoke to participants in an international conference on Integral Human Development and Catholic Prison Pastoral Care organised by the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development held yesterday and today at the Vatican.
In his address, the pontiff said that prisons should no longer be the expression of a "throwaway culture,” a place of marginalisation, the expression of the choice to repress rather than educate and offer opportunities for redemption to those who erred.
Francis told chaplains from Latin America, the United States, Europe, Africa and Oceania that no one can change their life if they see nothing on the horizon, even when the they are in for life.
Looking at the reality of prisons in many countries, Francis explained that “Many times society, through legalistic and inhumane decisions, justified by an alleged search for the good and security, seeks the isolation and detention of those who act against social norms as the final solution to the problems of life in community.”
“Thus, we justify the fact that large amounts of public resources are set aside to repress offenders instead of genuinely seeking to promote the full development of people and limit the circumstances that favour illegal actions. It is easier to suppress than to educate, to deny the injustice present in society and to create places to lock transgressors up into oblivion than to offer equal opportunities for everyone to develop.”
Detention centres should instead “promote reintegration processes,” guarantee "development opportunities, education, decent work, access to health" as well as create "public spaces of civic participation" for which there should “sufficient resources" and which they do not have. For all this, a change in mindset is necessary in order to see those who commit crimes as people first.
“Especially nowadays, our societies are called to overcome the stigma of those who have made a mistake because, instead of offering the help and adequate resources to live a dignified life, we have become accustomed to discarding rather than considering the efforts people make to reciprocate God’s love in their life.”
"Many times, after leaving prison, people must confront a world that is foreign to them, one that furthermore does not see them as worthy of trust, going even so far as to exclude them from having a chance to work and gain a decent livelihood. By preventing people from regaining their full dignity, they are again exposed to the dangers that accompany the lack of development opportunities, amid violence and insecurity.”
Lastly the Pope urges Christian communities to ask themselves: “If these brothers and sisters have already served their sentence for the evil committed, why put more on their shoulders through rejection and indifference? [. . .] On many occasions this social burden is one more factor that leads them into making the same mistakes again.”
Noting that the local Churches help prisoners through numerous initiatives, the Pope expressed hope that the Lord’s love would boost "the ministry of hope" in prisons.