Panel Discussion on Prison Reform

Flyer for a coffee hour discussion on prison reform and criminal justice

Over fifty parishioners of Our Lady of Sorrows in Sharon listened intently as representatives of Bethany House Ministries spoke at the parish’s first foray into discerning how they might accompany persons who are imprisoned or who are returning to society.  Based on fifty years of confinement, Paul Robinson gave concrete examples of physical, emotional, and mental deprivations that typify daily life behind the walls.  Ed Poole, Treasurer of the Board, described how every small and hard to come by connection that he grasped in his desire to make his life in freedom meaningful and productive allowed him to build, piece by piece, a strong life outside the walls.  He movingly acknowledged that kindnesses, opportunities for prayer, and material support offered by Bethany House Ministries kindled his self-respect and sustained his hope.  Ruth Raichle recalled how as a young, frightened nun, obliged to visit a female inmate, the humble gratitude and warm hospitality of this woman assured Ruth she would find the grace of God behind bars.  She noted many ways that Bethany House Ministries extends support in the early days and months of release.  Ruth emphasized that Bethany House Ministries forms a community among free and captive persons.  Former DOC Commissioner Kathleen Dennehy revealed that physical and emotional safety, nutrition, health care, privacy of mail, fair wages cannot be assumed in confinement.  She cautioned that critical issues at the local jail, the local state prison, and the federal penitentiary differ.  She said that third party oversight is necessary for assuring that convicted persons receive humane and just treatment.  She exhorted attendees to consider what talent, time or treasure they can commit to give the hidden, the neglected, the dismissed a fair and just chance to thrive.