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Roman Catholic Pastoral Services

Prison Reform and Pastoral Care

Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.' (Matthew 25:33-40)

It is in society's best interest to have prisons that protect the health and safety of inmates, because many won't always be incarcerated.


Common sense approaches to making any prison healthier and safer:

  • The safety of the inmate should be the number one priority in a prison. All staff are responsible for the safety of prisoners and should be held more accountable for any lapses in security and observation.
  • Most individuals who are incarcerated have a couple of things in common: most have suffered trauma, and/or neglect - (usually they are fatherless). It would be in the penal system and society's best interest for them to have the opportunity to process their trauma while inside.
  • Something that is sorely lacking, if not completely devoid among inmates (and staff), is any sense of genuine compassion, sympathy and empathy for themselves and especially for each other. Our school system (and our homes) are much the same way - go figure. Most have never learned these thoughts and feelings, or they have forgotten them, but these concepts need to be drilled into these people everyday. It should become part of the whole culture within the penal system. Frontline staff, while carrying out their duties with strictness and firmness, must also be models of compassion, sympathy and empathy.
  • Don't incarcerate first time non-violent offenders.
  • Get rid of mandatory minimums, three strikes, and other rigid, harsh, and extreme sentencing. It's the justice system, not the vengeance system.
  • No bartering, exchanging or borrowing between inmates, and that includes sex. All staff must also be looking out for any coercion between prisoners, especially vulnerable ones (new, young, docile etc.)
  • There should absolutely be no sexual activity (oral and anal) between inmates, and staff should never assume sex is consensual. Owning a person or regularly coercing them for their own benefit is slavery. Homosexuals/sodomites initiating such activity need to charged and labelled sex offenders and dealt with in the strictist terms.
  • Severe penalties (including criminal charges) for staff, all the way up the food chain, who "look the other way".
  • No gang policy.
  • No new tattoos.
  • Remove from penal institutions: all weight lifting, boxing and martial arts equipment. Why? Because you don't want violent inmates to be any bigger and stronger and to be even more of a threat to other prisoners and staff. That's why.
  • Have oversight from at least two human rights groups.
  • Teach them what is normal. This may sound obvious, but it is not, because many have never been taught. They have to know what normal people do - in order to create a better, safer life inside, and in society for when they leave prison. And, contrary to the mainstream, there is normal and abnormal. So what is normal that they may not know? It is normal to get along with others (show them with examples). It is normal to be nice to others. It is not weakness to be nice and cooperative, it actually feels good and makes a person feel good and it fills a void. It is normal to treat others with respect. Many people want to help other people. It makes a person feel good to help others. Doing what is right and good in every situation is the stuff of heroes. If they want to be a hero, they'll have to do what is right and good. It is the true and only path, so they might as well start now and get on it. Also, people will help you if you ask for help. The golden rule that our Lord taught always applies. Behaviours like sodomy is not normal, nor is coercing or forcing someone to do something. It is normal to obey laws and rules. The 10 commandments are normal and good.  - All this may seem like common sense to you, but it is often new information for inmates who grew up just trying to survive, with no guidance, or poor role models.
  • Catholic Chaplain should (if possible) visit every new prisoner on the day they arrive. A prisoner should be encouraged to maintain relationship with Chaplain.
  • It's in societies best interest to have safe prisons. If they are not safe, prison staff are not doing their job and have to be held accountable. Prison is a place where dangerous people do time and learn new healthy habits, and not have to live in fear or learn more maladaptive life skills. So in reality, a prison should be one of the safest places on earth.
  • Promotion of the Divine Mercy devotion is necessary in prisons because our Lord teaches us that NO ONE is beyond redemption, NO ONE, no matter who they are, no matter what they've done. Many in prison have the core belief that they are bad. If a person believes they are bad, consciously or subconsciously, they will act bad. Remind each inmate that they are a child of God. And no matter what, God's mercy is available to anyone who is repentant and asks for it. We've all done bad things, even some saints have. Change and conversion is an ongoing process until we die.

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