Pope Francis, even before becoming the leader of the Catholic church, was an advocate of prison ministry and prison reform. As an archbishop in Argentina, he often visited jails and prisons. Since becoming pope, he has visited prisons in Italy and other countries. He washed the feet of inmates at the Rebibbia prison in Rome during a Holy Thursday ritual in April.
Last week, Pope Francis, in Philadelphia, went to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, mainly an intake jail. The facility is one of six jails in Philadelphia’s system and incarcerates about 2800 inmates.
Pope Francis stated,”I am here as a pastor, but above all as a brother, to share your situation and to make it my own,” he told the roughly 100 men and women detainees, at Curran-Fromhold. “Jesus doesn’t ask us where we’ve been and he doesn’t ask us what we’ve done.”He discussed the washing of feet as a sign of possible redemption.
Pope Francis stated, “All of us need to be cleansed.” He continued, “It is painful when we see prison systems, which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities.”
He told the inmates, their families and the correctional officers to believe in the possibility of rehabilitation. Pope Francis urged that prison should not exclude inmates from society, but that prison should be considered a time for inmates to get “back on the right road.”
The pope’s views and words were welcomed by prison reformers in the United States. Holly Harris, executive director of the Justice Action Network, stated,“The pope is removing the stigma of these issues. We’re no longer talking about an obscure minority of people – this is something that impacts everyone in America. When you’re sitting in church this morning and look to your left and your right, odds are one of those people has a criminal record.”
Since the pope’s speech, more Americans are demanding reform of our broken system of justice. On September 29th, a prayer vigil for dignity and justice was held outside the Men’s Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday night. Individuals of different religions gathered together demanding prison reform and an end to mass incarceration, following Pope Francis’ message on mass incarceration and racial injustice.The United States has approximately 25% of the world’s inmates despite having only 5% of the world’s population.
Sponsored by the Fishman Firm: Brian Fishman has been practicing law in Philadelphia since 2002. His practice has been dedicated almost exclusively to criminal law although he also handles personal injury and civil right matters. Brian has been admitted to practice in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey and in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. After graduating cum laude from Temple University Law School where he was an editor on the Temple Law Review, Brian went to work as an Assistant District Attorney in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. There he tried hundreds of cases, including many jury trials. Brian litigated cases in Pennsylvania’s Municipal Court, Juvenile Court and the Court of Common Pleas. Brian, as a Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney, prosecuted a variety of serious criminal cases including rape, firearm offenses, attempted murder, burglary, robbery, DUIs and narcotics offenses. Brian can be contacted at his firm’s web site, http://www.thefishmanfirm.com/.
By: Bradley Schwartz.
Founder of prisonpath.com