‘I WAS IN PRISON AND YOU VISITED ME’

Fr Billy Swan

These words of Jesus are taken from Matthew 25 where the Lord identifies himself with the lowliest, the poorest and the neediest of our world. These include prisoners. It is why care for prisoners is included in the corporal works of mercy in the tradition of the Church. People in prison are still people, made in the image and likeness of God. No matter what someone has done, they deserve the opportunity to hear the Word of God and find the Truth of the message of Christ. Following the example of the Master, the Church tries to always distinguish between the sin and the sinner. Like Christ, we are called to hate the sin but love the sinner.

One way of caring for prisoners is to become familiar with their welfare and well-being. In a recent survey by the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas, some revealing information came to light about Irish prisoners in jails abroad. The survey exposed the main difficulties experienced by them in prison. For 59% of prisoners, mental health struggles were most burdensome. Second at 55.3% was the long periods spent in prison cells. The third most pressing challenge was loneliness and isolation at 51.8% followed by separation from family at 49.1%. 43.9% suffered because of lack of work and boredom; 34.2% worried about their physical health and 32.5% worried about the future and what would happen on their release from prison.

In solidarity with Irish prisoners abroad and indeed all prisoners, we offer this pray for them in the light of the understanding provided by this survey:

‘Loving Father, your Son identified himself with the least and the lowly including those in prison. Look with kindness on those who are in prison. Give them your gifts of peace and serenity when they feel frightened and alone. Console them when they feel homesick and miss their families. Forgive them for the hurt they have caused and any harm they have done. Help them find outlets to use their gifts and be creative. Give them the gift of hope that is born of faith so that they may know that they have a future ahead of them. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen’.