Young Haitian prisoners on remand …

The sharing of an experience lived in a centre for young prisoners on remand…

« The poor have a place of choice in the heart of God, to the point that he himself ‘became poor’ (2 Co 8,9)”

Paques-Fils-Prodigue-8-cm.jWe experience these words of Pope Francis (The Joy of the Gospel no 197) in the welcome of the young prisoners that we try to meet each Saturday with a team of catechists.

I have been part of this team for seven years now, helping with the coordination of the different groups, liaising with the director of the center as well as the guards and co-workers. At the moment there are 128 young people, aged from 12 to 18 years old, divided among 6 cells.

Each week we meet the young people from 2 cells to give them the chance to talk in total confidence.

The center takes in young people from all over Haïti and is a fairly closed environment. Their families cannot visit them, partly because of the distances involved. For the most part they therefore remain very isolated.

All the religions can meet the young people, which they do faithfully.

With the agreement of the guards, who are for the most part Protestant, our team has the possibility of meeting them each week during the school year. The Catholic Church makes an effort to maintain a presence in the center.

Mass is celebrated in principle one Sunday a month. With the team we try to prepare the readings and the prayers of intercession. The prisoners of the national penitentiary had prepared the Stations of the Cross for Lent.

This year we had a baptism at Easter time. The young man had journeyed during 2 years to deepen his faith. At the start there had been several candidates but as it turned out some had the chance to be liberated and others became discouraged.

What is important to us is to create a climate of confidence and listening that encourages freedom of speech. A young person said to us: “This is the only place where we can talk freely.”

A National Episcopal Pastoral Commission for Prisons was created a year ago and is presided over by Monsignor Quesnel ALPHONSE, an auxiliary bishop of Port-au-Prince. We have the opportunity of meeting together every month, but the commission has been rather slow in getting off the ground.

Sr. Madeleine Le Beau, d.j.

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