Friday, June 1, 2012

From the Diary of a Prison Chaplain

Although there are some law breakers who have become altruistic members of society after leaving prison, following many years of crime and imprisonment, most ex-convicts have a different story to tell. In his pastoral diary in the Peace Weekly, a prison chaplain recounts his experience with those who have left prison, only to return after committing another crime, which is a concern for those who have to deal with this sad reality.

The chaplain mentions an odd fact that when some ex-convicts return to spend time in a prison other than the one from which they were released, he hears about it from his former prison inmates. Surprisingly, they know, in addition to the prison they are now in, when and what they did and all the details of their crime.  How can prisoners separated from societal life be so knowing so quickly? He remains perplexed.

He recalls one of the inmates who received the chaplain's blessing before being release, and after a crime returned to the same prison, saying to him--as most have done on returning to prison--"I'm sorry." But there are those who do not acknowledge their past relationship with him, and avoid him.  All know what crime the person returned to prison has committed, even though there are those who shamelessly tell a different story.

Some of them can't forgive themselves, he says; they suffer alone, hating themselves. They need a great deal of consolation and therapy. Often you also meet, he says, those who have no qualms of conscience for their criminal acts, no remorse for what they have done. in an attempt to do whatever is necessary to reach them, he has sometimes gone with the religious sisters to a police station to talk to those they knew well when they were in prison, after they were picked up again for a crime.

What is true in prisons is also true in detention homes for the young, he said. The inmates are familiar with what has happened to their companions, and their conversation is very much like those in the prisons.

The reason for prisoners returning to prison, in the chaplain's opinion, is their difficulty of fitting back into society. Society is not welcoming to those with a record of crime; the opportunity to rehabilitate is generally not available. It's the same story the chaplain hears from most of the prisoners who have not made a successful return to society.

Many of them are not familiar with the basic family life that all should have, leaving them with emotional scars not easily healed. The efforts to correct the problem are ongoing but the needs of those who are seeking to make amends for their life are great. The chaplain ends by asking his readers to be open to embracing those with this history of crime and who seek to rehabilitate themselves to an honest and productive life in society.

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