Ministry to the Imprisoned
We Seek to Bring Healing Light to a Place of Darkness
"IMAGINE A LAND where children are forbidden, where playgrounds are never built, and where the laughter of little voices is never carried upon the air. Picture, if you will, a horizon of blue sky and cold, gray cement in all directions, punctuated only by an occasional treetop that can never be touched or climbed. Conceive, if you can, a country whose citizens never bear children, yet the census continues to record wild population growth. Consider a society that has banished the use of such diverse items as fresh fruit, chewing gum, and ballpoint pens with clear casings. No taxicabs will ever be hailed from these streets; vehicles are not permitted.
"Here there are no bus stops, train stations, or parking garages. There are no automobiles, airplanes, or bicycles. All traffic is pedestrian, but running is prohibited by law. The city has one road leading in; there are none leading out. There are no shopping malls, grocery stores, or fast-food restaurants. Banks are unheard of, as are credit unions, employment agencies, or ATMs. Cash is extinct; plastic is forbidden. All the apparel worn by the inhabitants of this alien landscape is identical. Colors are predetermined by the system; style is irrelevant. All mail, in or out, is subject to search, seizure, and censure. Big Brother is a reality; your every step and position, every hour of the day, is known and monitored. And though the dark Orwellian night has fallen; the lights are on. Always. Somewhere.
"Welcome to the Fourth Dimension, a parallel universe vaguely mirroring your own. Step out of your own universe for a moment if you will; your tour guide awaits you. The doors are open, but they will soon shut with a singular clang as you leave your own time zone. The culture here is as different as that of any foreign country, but most of the inhabitants speak your language. Welcome to the world of the incarcerated. . ."
Yet, "We know that faith has a transforming effect on all our lives. Therefore, rehabilitation and restoration must include the spiritual dimension of healong and hope. The Church muststand-ready to help offenders discover the good news of the Gospel and how it can transform their lives. There should be no prisons, jails, or detention centers that do not have a regular and ongoing Catholic ministry and presence. "
It is our task to encourage healing transformation, and we do so in many different ways, suited to the particular characteristics of each institution of confinement.
 Spitale, Lennie, Prison Ministry: Understanding Prison Culture Inside and Out, (B & H Publishing Co., Nashville, TN; 2002). Preface.
 Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, December 2000, pp. 49-50.