The National Coordinator(s) of PMI: Transferring the Mantle of Authority
“The charming gardener who made the souls blossom”. With tears in our hearts, the Prison Ministry India family gathered to bid farewell to Fr. Sebastian Vadakumpadan, the National Coordinator. The Holy Eucharist, on the day, was celebrated by Fr. Sebastian and the co-celebrants were Fr. Varghese Karippery – the founder of Prison Ministry India, Fr. Francis Kodiyan MCBS – the newly appointed National Coordinator, Fr. Stanley MSC – the newly appointed Assistant National Coordinator, and priests from the nearby communities in Bangalore and closely associated with PMI. After the homily, Sr. Fidelis HC, the pioneer of Prison Ministry, Bangalore said a few words appreciating Fr. Sebastian and all the selfless work that he had rendered in the past years towards the growth of PMI. She also welcomed Fr. Francis Kodiyan, after which Sr. Lini MSC, the National secretary gave the introduction to the symbolic Handing Over Ceremony, where Fr. Sebastian handed over the chapel key of the national office, the Holy Bible, and the emblem of Prison Ministry India to Fr. Francis Kodiyan, keeping in mind the principles of PMI (Prayer is our powerhouse, God’s providence is our bank balance, inconvenience is our convenience, begging is our lifestyle). Then the letter from Most Rev Allwyn D’Silva, the Chairman of PMI was read out by Fr. Varghese Karippery (thanking and welcoming letter).
It was a heart-warming and moving moment when everyone greeted Fr. Sebastian and bid goodbye to him. We could not accept the fact and many were in tears - all those who worked with him, neighbours, friends who were a great support to him and to the national office. The tears did not end; that same evening when Fr. Sebastian was ready to leave the children of Kolbe Home, they would not leave him, kept holding on to him, and embracing him tightly, they wept bitterly. The unreserved love of the little ones was just remarkable. Together with every volunteer of PMI, every member from our rehabilitation centres, we say to him, “We miss you!!!” We also welcome with much joy, Rev Dr Francis Kodiyan MCBS, the National coordinator, saying to him, “We will all work together for a noble cause.”
Sr Lini Sheeja MSC
National Secretary of Prison Ministry India
April 11th was a special day for Kolbe Home, Bangalore
It was long awaited picnic time when children of Swanthana (www.swanthana.org) and Kolbe home , Bangalore could come together and have fun through different activities.We had to plan this only during summer vacation as other time of the year children have the regular school to attend.The volunteers were preparing both the homes on who they will be meeting and the excitement was palpable.
It all started on April 11th at 10:15 AM when the Swanthana angels welcomed the Kolbe boys (aged 4-14 years) who reached on time with a prayer and "Good morning" song.This was followed by a round of introduction by each of the children.It was heart warming to see the children keenly listening to know each others name. This was followed by action song and dance by both the homes and they even sang in unison for one of the song known to both of them.
The next part was the most exciting for the kids where one of the guest invited by the volunteers narrated the story of "Jonah and the fish" so beautifully that there was pin drop silence to know the sequence of events from all the kids.There was even active participation by each of the kid in creating the sound effects of rain and thunder storm using their fingers, hands and feet. Truly story telling is an art which gifted few possess.
Then was the games time where the children were divided into four teams of Voyagers,Spartans,Rangers and Titans. The games played were dumb charades, hot potato and customized version of lemon and spoon race where the boys held the spoons with beads to be balanced and wheel chairs of the girls sitting to be driven too.
The children mingled well and helped each other beautifully and there was a harmony seen even while there was competitiveness. All the teams were rewarded for this wonderful co-operative gesture.
Time flew away very soon in the company and it was lunch time which the children spent having the meal together.Though the children had to part ways to their own homes they would have certainly realized that friendship knows no boundaries. This will linger in their memories for a very very long time and we thank all the volunteers and Sisters of Swanthana who graciously agreed to be wonderful host.
March 6th 2018
It was great honour to visit the family of Fr.Xavier Thelakkat who dared to forgive the sarcristian who had taken the life of their beloved son , Fr.Xavier. We handed over the momento to console and appreciate this wonderful gesture.
Fr.Xavier's mother in true values of Christ, went to sacristian house the same week when her son was murdered and the sacristian family fell on her knees and asked pardon.The mother indeed granted pardon in the name of Jesus whom her son was serving faithfully.
"Only strong can forgive. "
"Forgiveness cannot undo the past but can enlarge the future "
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Sebastian Vadakumpadan
National Coordinator and Secretary to C.B. C. I. for Prison Ministry India
November 25th was special day for Jeevodaya and Kolbe homes as we had one of the reputed school in Bangalore visiting them in person. It was part of the social responsibilities initiative of the school where the children saved from their pocket money and donated for charity.The school children along with their teacher and staff visited the premises with generous gifts and interacted with the inmates and expressed their interest in some of the items created by the Jeevodaya.
The children of the Kolbe homes were delighted to interact with the school children and were happy to perform for them showing their great many talents.It was a day of happiness, motivation and true learning to Kolbe homes as well as visiting school children.
Rehabilitation is the last stage of prisoners restoration program. Here a prisoner is being initiated for a normal, social life by re-training and coaching.
Search for job facilities
Has the prime importance in the process of rehabilitation. This is the most difficult task, because our society is not yet ready to accept the person or allow him or her to resettle in life.
The re-integration into the family: is another important thing to be done. In the renewal process, the animators begin to visit the homes of prisoners and prepare the ground for re-establishing the lost family ties.
Contact with the local police
Every police station has a K.D. list. After the completion of six months renewal period, we get in touch with the local police and request them not to harass them, who are prepared to start a new life. Local people also should be motivated to appreciate and accept the ex-prisoners.
Authentic and reciprocal relationship between the center and person should be activated by follow up program, visits and gatherings. This would be a strong motivating and highly sustaining factor in their struggles to lead a normal life in society.
Facilitate in the life of prisoner’s child
All these efforts, and others at the local, state, and federal level, have expanded the discussions about the affects of parental incarceration on children, families, and communities. While there is still much work to be done, the work has begun. Professionals from the criminal justice systems and health and human services systems are not only talking to each other, but are also working together to plan and implement interventions that strengthen families, support positive change by incarcerated parents, and promote re-integration into family and community life.
"The greatest religious change in the history of mankind" took place "under the eyes of a brilliant galaxy of philosophers and historians who disregarded as contemptible an Agency (Christianity) which all men must now admit to have been . . . the most powerful moral lever that has ever been applied to the affairs of men."
Projects we support
The Prison Ministry Project is a pastoral ministry of word and sacrament for prisoners inside the walls. It is a ministry of help for their families. It is a ministry of resource for local pastors and congregations faced with members in prison or who want to learn how they can respond to the Gospel of Matthew. It is a ministry of advocacy for prison reform. It is a ministry of cooperation with other denominations and social justice programs around the state.
Prison Ministries is privileged to be on the front lines and see the power of God, and the gospel of Jesus Christ, at work in lives of prisoners. Our volunteers get to witness the light and life in the eyes of men who at one time had no hope, they get to hear first hand the stories of how God has done for them what no one else could do.
Prison Statistics India is the latest in the series of annual statistical reports being brought out by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). In fact, this is the only annual statistical publication started by NCRB, other publications having been started prior to the constitution of NCRB and continued by NCRB. The data for the report is collected from Prison Headquarters of all States / UTs. Arunachal Pradesh did not have any jail prior to 2009. The first edition of the report pertains to the year 1995 and the latest edition of the report pertains to the year 2012.
There is a story of two trees growing together in an area. One of them is the smallest tree and other tree standing close to it was the longest tree in the forest. One day, the smallest tree in its wisdom understanding all the differences declared with loud voice looking up at the tallest tree.
Messages of the nature: every small and existing animate and inanimate things of the creation can communicate powerful messages to one’s life. This calls for openness towards the nature in life and to respect it. This process brings down the stress and strain of one’s life situations.
Family apostolate: visiting the family members to understand the situation of a prisoner and encouraging them to accept the prisoners as they are, is a crucial step in the whole process.
Overcrowding keeps hurdles to humanize the prisons
An important aspect that should bother the administration of prisons is the overcrowding in prisons. The national crime records bureau (NCRB) in New Delhi brings out the annual publication, ‘prison Statistics India’. As per survey done at the end of 2009, there were 1374 prisons and available capacity was 307052 but the population of inmates was 376969. The occupancy rate is 122.8 percentage which reflects 22.8 percentage of overcrowding in prisons. The category wise distribution of prisoners shows that there are 123941 convicted prisoners and 250204 under trial prisoners and convicted prisoners are 32.9 in the share of prison population and 66.4 percentage as under trial prisoners’ share. This reflects the enormity of the tasks that weigh down the average prison officials considering the large share of under trial prisoners in the prison population. This will definitely jeopardize the reformative programme to humanize the prisons. Our idea is to humanize and not make prisons a comfortable place to which you would like to return after release; actually why conditions in prison are so appalling it is mostly because of the mind set of policy makers in general that prisons need to deter a prisoner from lapsing in to crime again. Prison overcrowding is the fountain head of most of ills. It is a poor consolation that we share this overcrowding problem with many other countries. Obviously, if prison overcrowding has to be brought down the under trial population has to be reduced drastically. This, of course cannot happen without the courts and the police working in tandem. Too many under trial prisoners are a blot on those who administer justice in the countries. Speedy trials are frustrated by a heavy court work load, police inability to produce witness promptly and a recalcitrant defense lawyer who is bent upon seeking adjournments.
Fast track courts have helped to an extent, but have not made a measurable defense to the problem of pendency. Increasing the number of courts cannot bring about a desired difference as long as the court adjournment culture continues. As per the records of NCRB in 2002 nearly 220000 cases took more than three years for trial to be completed and 25600 exhausted 10 years for trial. There is only one way we can take care of the huge under trial backlog. It is to make bail more easily available. A survey of the prison population at any time would reveal a staggering number of those inside prisons who have already spent a term longer than the most rigorous sentence that they could ever be awarded at the end of trial for the offence committed by them .It does not mean that we should extend this liberal bail to those charged with murder/ attempt to murder or rape. Lesser offences merit this treatment for reasons of expediency if not clemency. Several countries have tried a general amnesty, without much of an adverse impact on the overall crime situation. Incidental recidivism in India is at a manageable percent and the trend is on the decline. A combination of liberal bail and a scheme of amnesty for those not facing charge of violence, against either individual or the state and have been incarcerated at least for year is definitely warranted, if jails are to become manageable. One more measure that can at least marginally help to improve the situation is to legislate for alternatives to incarceration. Community service is one option that has been found practical and also effective in paving the path for refining an offender. All these measures work possibly only if there is great political will and sagacity. Unless we march towards with these reforming ideas with good leadership we cannot humanize the prisons for rehabilitating the inmates of prison to the community.
(Reference;1. Front line, Volume 21, issue 26, 18- 31, 2004, R. K. Raghavan. 2. Prison Statitics, 2009, NCRB, Delhi.)
Respected and honorable guests on the dais,
The report that was presented before us unveils that the Co-ordinator SrAshaPreethi D’Souza and all the members of various units have left no stones unturned to actualize the dreams of pioneers of PMI through steady steps, relentless efforts and much more with greater collaboration. Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates vision for tomorrow. At this moment the grateful feeling gushes from within me so much that controls the flow of words.
Let me share with you an anecdote:
The Good Lord was creating the volunteer of PMI. It was his sixth day of overtime and the job was not over. An angel appeared and said, ‘You are taking quite a long time to create a volunteer’. ‘Yes, said God, but I have a number of things to attend to when I have to make a volunteer that too for PMI. A volunteer must stand above all prison inmates yet be on their level. A volunteer must be able to do 180 things not connected with the work that is done. A volunteer must communicate life giving love towards all the inmates daily and be right, most of the time. A volunteer must have more time for others than for herself/himself. A volunteer must have a smile that can endure through problematic and worried inmates and Prison Authorities. A volunteer must have six pair of hands and three pairs of eyes. The angel raised his eyebrow, ‘three pair of eyes on standard model?’ The Lord nodded his head, ‘One pair of eyes can see an inmate for what he is and not what others have labeled him as. Another pair of eyes is in the back of the volunteer’s head to see what should not be seen, but what must be known. The eyes in the front are only to look at the inmate and without saying a word to express ‘I understand and I still believe in you, you can change your life, you are beautiful, you have a better future’. ‘This is a big project and you will not finish it today, you better continue tomorrow’, said the Angel. I can’t, said the Lord, ‘for I have come very close to creating something much like myself. This volunteer is the one who comes to work when she/he is sick, reveals the truth that do not want to learn, has a special place in her/his heart for people who are not her/his own, understands the struggles of those who have difficulty, never takes the inmates for granted, soft hearted and yet tough, full of love and compassion in the heart, and trust in the providence of God. The angel ran his finger over the volunteer’s cheek. Well, he said, ‘there is a leak, you have overloaded the model. The Lord touched the drop of moisture and said, ‘It is not a leak, it is a tear.’ ‘A tear?’ What is that for?’ asked the angel. The Lord replied’ ‘It is for the joy and pride of seeing an inmate making a difference in his life. It comes from the pain of not being able to reach to all the inmates.
We have you, my dear volunteers who work for Prison Ministry, an image of God amidst us, today who are the center of programme. You have given your time, your energies, warmth and love to hundreds. You have given yourself without counting the cost, toiled without looking for any rest, laboured without seeking a reward. You richly deserve our respect, the esteem and gratitude for being serving persons, sharing persons, giving persons and above all loving persons. Definitely you are the masterpieces of God’s creation and God must have used his best technical efficiency while creating each one of you. You have a special call to touch the lives and hearts of the broken – hearted and make them dignified human persons by providing a platform to unravel the hidden capacities in an inmate, a pedestal to identify the eagle in an egg, a statue in a piece of stone and a butterfly in a cocoon. As a Persian proverb goes; Mountains cannot reach out to the mountains, only humans can reach out to humans. We need more volunteers and co-workers to reach out to our brothers and sisters behind bars inside the huge walls of prison, with varied and untold needs. Prisoners lack legal aid, Consequence of prison structure and function; Physical and psychological torture resulting from overcrowding, lack of space for segregation of sick, stinking toilets for want of proper supply of water, lack of proper bedding, restrictions on movement resulting from shortage of staff, non-production of under trail prisoners in courts, neglect in the grant of parole, inadequate medical facilities are some of the collective neglect of the whole system, lack of physical and mental activities, lack of decent health care, all increase the likelihood of health problems in prisons, Women and health care in prisons;
J. Maurius says ‘The day you no longer burn with love, many others will die of cold’. It means the growth in any mission with a vision demands love, dedication, patience, understanding and sacrifice. True love germinates from the heart and grows one day at a time – from a corn to an oak, firmly rooted in reality. As you tirelessly work for the Release, Renewal and Rehabilitation of the inmates of the prison this programme reminds me of one truth, that even the most dismal challenges when faced with courage and faith in God, make us experience success and that too success to the satisfaction of everyone who is involved in it.
May God grant you the best of everything especially good health, peace of mind, joy and fulfillment and a thousand opportunities to serve Him. May the Lord walk with you and may you bring inspirations in many more lives.
Good luck and God bless!
Sr Rosin Noronha UFS
Former Regional Co-ordinator PMI
Honourable chairperson, Archbishop of Guwahati Most Rev. John Moolachira, Most Rev. Lumen Monteiro Bishop of Agarthala, Rev. Fr. Sebastian Vadakumpadan- National Co-ordinator for PMI India, AshaPreeti the Regional co-ordinator for PMI, dignitaries on the dais, the co-ordinators and the volunteers of Prison Ministry India
It gives me great joy to be present here this evening for the inaugural function of Co-ordinators and Volunteers’ Meet here in North East India. At the outset I want to extend my heartiest congratulations to Sr. AshaPreeti the Co-ordinator of PMI north east and all the collaborators for their great, committed and dedicated service to this ministry, for all that they have been able to achieve in terms of meeting the objectives of Prison Ministry and above all for being instruments of Christ’s Compassionate love to the People behind the bars.
This is the first time I am attending a programme like this, though I have visited prisons and interacted with the prisoners, have become part of the CRI volunteers who visited the prisons. I just want to share my thoughts and views to the group here.Strange but true that life today is full of challenges and difficulties, which were not there in yester years. The younger generation does not seem to feel it. To them what they see is what they know. Past is history. There could be convincing explanations to all this anomalies we see. But life is changing fast and becoming more materialistic. In this rat race the less fortunate are left behind believing on the adage “survival of the fittest’
Some of the captions in the media highlight the paradox of the present day life and its priorities. I would like to mention a few:
First of all the ministry of prisoners is a vivid encounter with the Lord. Indeed, in Christ the love of God and love of neighbour have become one, so that ‘in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in him… God’ ( Deus caritas est. n.5). Jesus said: “I came so that they may have life, and life in abundance” ( Jn: 10/10). Life without proper freedom or liberty is mere existence and cannot be called human life. Prisoners can be overwhelmed by feelings of isolation, shame and rejection that threaten to shatter their hopes and aspirations for the future. Within this context the members of the prison ministry are called to be heralds of God’s infinite compassion and forgiveness. Secondly this ministry requires highest qualification in compassion, mercy and forgiveness because this mission is a call from the Lord to bring the love of Christ, His compassion, mercy and forgiveness. Therefore, every volunteer should be equipped with two certificates: conviction and commitment, compassion and care. This ministry involves lot of challenges, risks and volunteers need to accept them in humility and simplicity. Swami Vivekananda said, “They only live, who live for others. The rest are more dead than alive.” Mother Theresa once said,’ I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I do know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, how many good things have you done in your life?, rather he will ask, how much Love do you put into what you did? The CRI North East India has been active leaven supporting the Prison Ministry. Many of the CRI units in different dioceses of NE India have taken PM is part of its active ministry to be a witness to God’s liberating love to the people behind bars. Sr. AshaPreeti the Sister of the Ursuline Franciscan Sisters who Co-ordinates Prison Ministry in North East India and all the States, and diocesan co-ordinators of North East have been toiling very hard to make this ministry effective. The CRI supports PM to fulfillits mission with an effective Christ-centered, faith based approach by meeting the spiritual, personal and social needs of the jail and prison inmates, former inmates and their families. The CRI will continue to give its full support in the future years too. What is not done is just a drop in the ocean. Much needs to be done through interventions as the needs of the Prisoners are vivid and distinct. Suggesting a few of them: 1. Legal interventions 2.Individual counseling and family counseling of the prisoners, 3. Taking the help of the Legal Aid Cells of the dioceses or regions to help the innocent prisoners, 5. Human rights education and legal aid education to the prisoners.
A good system of net-working has to be developed to make our interventions effective. I call upon the religious congregations to give full time volunteers to making these possible. Dear friends, in spiritual sense we are all prisoners of selfishness, hatred, jealousy, anger and rebellion which separate us from the new law Jesus gave” Love your neighbour as you love yourself’. So, we all stand in need of release from prisons that prevent us from being children of God.
I wish every success with God’s abundant blessings on this noble ministry to the Prisoners
Northeast Regional CRI