Prisoners’ Reformation Trajectory
Rev Dr Francis Kodiyan MCBS
Since the Darwinian revolution scientific enquiry has attained a touch of the trajectory. This is evident in Teilhard de Chardin’s progressive phases of cosmogenesis, Jean Piaget’s cognitive development, Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral growth and James Fowler’s grades of faith maturity. Following these trajectory tracks, this article hypothesises that the reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners, prostitutes, street children, drug addicts, and beggars is a trajectory, i.e., that it has a beginning, growth and a climax. Based on my doctoral thesis on the Trajectory of Religious Conversion, this article briefly analyses the four important stages of the trajectory of prisoner reformation: the pre-formative, formative, per-formative and post formative stages. The scope of this study is to enlighten those who dedicate themselves to the rehabilitation and reformation of released prisoners and prostitutes and who undergo reformative training in the institutes of Prison Ministry India, Jesus Fraternity and similar organisations.
2. Concept Of TrajectoryThe word Traject comes from the Latin traiectus, which means a passing over, a way or a passage. Webster's Third New International Dictionary describes the term as a path, a progression or a line of development. By the term trajectory we mean the various stages of a progressive path, which has a beginning, a middle and an end. According to our understanding prisoner reformation is a process having three different phases, i.e., an initiation, a growth and a climax. The reformation trajectory of a prisoner may begin with an initial momentum of conversion by a special grace such as reading the Holy Bible, participation in a retreat, an encounter with an enlightened person, or a particular life crisis. He/she gradually commences turning away from his/her past sinful and immoral life. Through the continued forces of unconditional love and acceptance from relatives, friends and voluntary agencies, he/she begins to keep the commandments and develops virtues. In the course of time, he/she becomes deeply aware of life goals, life vision and mission. Thus, the reformation trajectory of a prisoner is the transformation and transcendence track of a criminal; it is a progressive process of self-awareness, self-transformation, self-actualisation, self-transcendence, deification and socio-political consciousness.
The reformation trajectory of St Paul, for instance, began with the Damascus experience (Acts 9), developed through the Arabian experience, the mystical experience (2 Cor 12, 2-4), the persecution experiences (2 Cor 11, 23-29) and finally reached its summit in martyrdom. The reformation trajectory of Paul, the persecutor, consisted in his becoming Paul the apostle, the mystic, the martyr and the saint. The reformation trajectory of Augustine, the sinner, consisted in his becoming Augustine the bishop, the saint, the Father and Doctor of the Church. Therefore, the reformation trajectory, as in the lives of Paul and Augustine, consists of a radical personal transformation leading the self to the service of others, which is a gradual progressive process with different stages such as pre-formative, formative, per-formative and post formative.
3. Pre-Formative Stage
The pre-formative stage is the dark period in prisoner's life. It is the paradise lost experience, the turning away from the unconditional love of God, from family members, one’s circle of friends and society. It is the decline and degradation period of one's intellectual, affective, moral and religious life. This can be called the process of de-conversion, perversion or the pre-conversion period. In the parable of the prodigal son (Lk 15, 11-24), the pre-formative stage begins with the departure of the prodigal son from the presence of the loving father and ends with the decision to return to the father. Considering the example of St Teresa of Avila, her pre-formative stage was the twenty years she spent in the convent before her conversion, the long period of her religious dissatisfaction.
There are certain important factors that are to be considered in the pre-formative stage. The first among them is past experience. Reformation is closely associated with past sins and failures. Rectifying the past is not the sole aim of reformation. Rather, it is a process that takes notice and utilizes the past while moving towards the future. The past is not detached from one's life like an object that is over and done with and which one no longer possesses. It is never completely eliminated from one’s life but forms part of one's life and is integrated into one's personality and influences on one's determinations. This past can include an unhealthy moral climate, a wound badly cured, or a weak point always ready for self-poisoning.
Thanks to grace in the present, the past can be transformed and can give present behaviour a totally new meaning. “We are well aware that God works with those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with his purpose and turns everything to their good” (Rom 8,28). Veekke, the cofounder of Prison Ministry India and director of the first rehabilitation centre of the Jesus Fraternity, writes about the significance of the awareness of the present:
Living in the present means facing reality as it is. Through sports and awareness therapies every released prisoner is provided the opportunity to get in touch with himself/herself and the reality of the present moment. This method enables one to better face the challenges of one’s life situations.
The second factor of the pre-formative stage is sin and crime. Reformation cannot ignore the fact of sin and crime. Often, the pre-formative stage is a period tortured by evil inclinations, tendencies, habits, criminal activities and sins. A prisoner who undergoes reformation can be a victim of inordinate attachments to crime, sex, drugs, alcohol, food, wealth, power, and position. He may have led a life filled with the cardinal sins; a life lived without any consideration of the commandments of God and of society. These are great obstacles not only to growth in the trajectory of reformation but also to interior liberty.
The reasons and situations that lead one to become a criminal and ultimately a prisoner are varied. They may be due to the frailty and weakness of human nature or concupiscence. There can also be biological, psychological or socio-economical reasons. They may be due to the influence of one's peer group, literature, mass media, culture, pornography, and unhealthy relationships. Unemployment, poverty, discrimination, pathetic life situations and uncontrolled intellectual quests and non-directed adventurous tendencies can also lead to de-conversion. Alcohol and drug abuse as well as the breakdown of families, failure in fulfilling the basic human needs of rural societies and the phenomenon of urbanization may also lead to perversion.
Broken families make up one of the great causes of de-conversion. Statistics reveal that almost 90% of criminals are from broken homes. According to John Thomas Kottukappally, even the tendency to fall into habitual sin itself is a result of lack of proper upbringing in early childhood. The lack of parental love is the main contributing factor in the formation of the criminal mind. In 1990, the Crisis Centre of Covenant House, New York, took in 28,000 children from the street. Sr Mary McGeady, its president, writes that these children are homeless because they have literally been thrown out of their houses by parents or stepparents who did not want them. Many others fled into the streets because they were physically and/or emotionally abused at home. Parents burdened with drug or alcohol addictions, with psychological and emotional problems, add fuel to the fire of de-conversion. De-conversion may also be due to problems caused by parents’ divorcing and remarrying. Often, children without families are forced into foster homes, orphanages, borstal schools, or in similar institutions where there exists no genuine love and affection; they can become easily de-converted.
4. Formative Stage
The formative stage of prisoner renewal focuses on the actual process of one’s return to God. This is the period in one’s life that consists of the departure from a sinful life and the arrival at God and His ultimate plan. The formative stage may be filled with one or more of the following experiences: awakening, enlightenment, illumination, a sense of higher control, an intense presence of God, a great conviction of sin, and determination for life renewal, self-surrender and forgiveness. Primarily, this is an intense experience of the divine call and the human response through a radical decision to be born again. As a result, the individual experiences an absence of worries, a sense of ultimate well-being, peace and harmony. This is the crucial moment of illumination, the spectacular bursting forth of one's mental powers which opens the doors of the mind to the Spirit and hence, intensely quickens the spiritual life.
The period a released prisoner spends at the first and second stages of renewal and rehabilitation of Prison Ministry India can represent the formative stage. In the case of the prodigal son, his formative stage begins with the decision to return to the father and ends with its actual realization. For St Paul, it was the God experience on the way to Damascus (Acts 9, 1-9) and for St Augustine, the tolle legge experience. For St Teresa of Avila, this moment crystallised with an image of the wounded Jesus - ecce homo - in front of which Teresa had been kneeling in prayer.
The formative stage has different phases consisting of different life-events and intense experiences. There is the first conversion, which normally becomes very public. However, formation does not end here. There is still the need for both a moral and an intellectual preparation. These are accomplished by removing prejudices and developing visions, missions and life-goals. St Paul’s formative stage, which began with the God experience on the way to Damascus, was not the end of his reformation but only the beginning of a gradual journey of growth that consisted of different encounters and experiences much like that of the third heaven (2 Cor 12, 2-4).
One of the important factors in the formative stage is the point of departure, i.e., the how of its beginning or the starting point of reformation. Always, the initiator is God and the initiative is from Him. Hence, the beginning of reformation is in God and is often in a God experience. However, reformation may occur through extraordinary event like that which happened to St Paul. Or it may begin with a doubt as happened to Lacordaire. The starting point of reformation may come about due to various causes like misery, disgust with oneself, serious reflection on a sermon or a book, periods of sickness, crisis, or the experience of death.
An awareness of sin has a great role to play in the formative stage. The appearance of guilt, self-blame and the sense of sin have been noted as essential parts of this period. Conquering deep-rooted sin and sinful habits are proper to the formative stage. As St Paul states, the life of those who are under reformation is an ongoing battle between the good spirit and the evil spirit (Gal 5, 16-18; 24-25).
Prayer, intense personal relationship with God, helps not only to win in this battle but also to arrive at a deeper self-awareness. With God’s grace one will be able to do even the so-called impossible things. The God experience empowers an individual to dive deep into personal transformation as well as to do marvellous deeds for others. With regular prayer one can dream of a new life with a new vision.
Contrition is a proper disposition during this period. Genuine self-analysis leads to deep contrition and to profound self-knowledge. Self-knowledge brings forth humility, which is the humble recognition of one's abasement and sinfulness. In a fully developed religious sorrow, the sinner is shaken at his innermost being at the thought of the malice of his offence against an all-holy God (Lk 5,8). A profound awareness of one's own sinfulness hurls him into the arms of the infinitely merciful God (Jn 6,69). The ultimate purpose of genuine contrition is not focused on past failures but on God. It provides the interior strength with which to face the repressed anger, fear and guilt that separate us from God and from other persons. Genuine contrition is the only way of obtaining pardon (Is 4,7) and of escaping temporal and eternal judgments (Jn 5,14; Lk 13,3).
Reconciliation, an after-effect of genuine contrition, is a renewed embracing of God, the world, and of self. Reconciliation with the victim, family and society is very significant for a released prisoner who undergoes reformative training. Pope John Paul II states that there is a close internal link uniting reformation and reconciliation. It is impossible to separate these two realities. In the rehabilitation centres of Prison Ministry India, the inmates write letters to the family members and victims and personally visit them as practical means of reconciliation.
During the formative stage one engages in the search for the meaning of life or in an attempt to find one's concrete life goal. This search for life’s meaning and life's goal may reach the shore of personal vocation, a process of discovering one's unique God-assigned life-mission, lifestyle, and its realization. During this period the rehabilitation centres should provide the inmate proper job training and education in accordance with the individual’s life goal and mission and taking into consideration of his/her interests and aptitude.
The Prison Ministry India rehabilitation centres for released prisoners introduce work therapy to realise one’s life goal and mission. Veekke in his article Three ‘R’ Theory states that work therapy motivates released prisoners to engage in creative activities and to understand and respect the dignity of labour. Those who easily and unjustly acquire money must be taught to earn money by hard work.
5. Per-Formative Stage
The per-formative stage of prisoner renewal is the period of development and deepening of the reformation that occurs after the intense renewal experience and it lasts until one's death. The per-formative phase, an organic and logical outgrowth of the formative stage, is the perfecting of the already begun formative process and therefore, it is a continuation of one’s reformation, a deepening of one's interiority and an expansion of one's vision and mission. This is the period following the training at the rehabilitation centres; it is the stage when the released prisoner gets a proper job, has a family to live with and a home to live in. Some of the significantly typical features of the per-formative stage are 1) an upsurge of virtues and values, 2) an undertaking of missions, 3) an endeavour to invite others for reformation, 4) a purification by suffering, and 5) mystical experiences.
First of all, the perfection of reformation consists in an effort to grow in virtues and values that spring forth from a deep contemplative communion with God. It demands and requires a concomitant struggle against vice and a growth in holiness. Reaching the summit of sanctity should be the ultimate goal of the per-formative stage. This is so important that the holiness of the Church and of the whole world depends upon the holiness of the individual. As Lumen Gentium states, all are called to holiness because it is the great design of the gospel dispensation (Cf. LG 39; Titus 2:11-14). According to St Paul, this is a transition from a life guided by the works of flesh to a life guided by the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5: I 6-24). It is a gradual growth in divine and human love and it manifests itself in agape or compassion.
Secondly, those in per-formative stage may either construct one’s own house and settle in family life or undertake a great mission or may do both. This is why St Paul, after his conversion, became a great missionary; Francis of Assisi became the reformer of the Church, and Francis Xavier went to India as a missionary. Reformation is growth towards a universal brotherhood and towards the undertaking of great responsibilities, as did the apostles and missionaries. Many reformed prisoners who actively participate in the reformative programmes of Prison Ministry India undertake great missions. For example, we can consider the life of Mathew Albin. He was once a criminal and now he runs many homes for mental patients and wandering beggars in Kerala.
Thirdly, the per-formative stage consists in an endeavour to invite others to the reformation experience that one has undergone. Avery Dulles writes: “Those who have been themselves converted are driven by a passion to convert others, partly in order to share the riches they have found, but partly also to reinforce their own conviction”. There are many reformed prisoners who do marvellous ministry for prisoners. Hundreds of reformed prisoners can say in all honesty:
I stand before you as a paradigm respecting and accepting the mission and vision of Prison Ministry India and its rehabilitation centres, proclaiming through my life, that PMI can work wonders in the renewal process of prisoners.
Fourthly, the per-formative stage can be a period of intense suffering. Individuals in this stage may undergo severe physical, psychological and spiritual agonies. Instead of consolations, individuals may be asked to drink from the chalice of desolation, perhaps even without knowing the reasons behind it. It is both a time of purification and maturation; evil inclinations are purified and virtues are matured. The suffering may be due to the chiselling of character or it may be the birth-pain of new virtues, blue prints and mystical graces.
The culmination of the per-formative-stage can be found in mystical experiences such as enlightenment, mystical marriage, etc. Growth in conversion causes to spring forth a theocentric and Christocentric mystical union much like that of Paul’s experience of the third heaven (2 Cor 12, 1-4), the seventh mansion experience in the Interior Castle, the summit experience of the Mount Carmel in the Ascent of the Mount Carmel, the night vision of the Dark Night, and the essential prayer in Being in Love.
6. Post-Formative Stage
The post-formative stage, the final phase of the prisoner reformation trajectory, occurs after one's death. It is the ultimate goal and orientation of every believer. Despite the fact that the active effort on the part of the prisoner ceases with death, the effects of reformation continue on the horizon spreading light to many wandering in darkness. This means that the trajectory of reformation never comes to an end until one returns to paradise and enjoys forever the glorious life with the Triune God. The post-formative stage is a transcendence of human and earthly limitations such as time, space and finiteness and attaining eternity and fulfilling God's will in relation to men and to all creation.
According to our understanding, the post-formative stage has four important characteristics. First of all, it is during this eschatological stage that the prisoner, if he dies in God's grace, enters either immediately or through a purification into heaven, the ultimate end and fulfilment of the deepest human longings, to enjoy the supreme divine union with the Most Holy Trinity, the Virgin Mary, the angels and the blessed (Cf. CCC 1021-1029).
Secondly, this is the stage where the prisoner, if he/she is found righteous, will rise to the resurrection of life to complete the final and ultimate return to God. This will occur during the second glorious coming of Jesus Christ when the universal call of judgment is heard: “Come O, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt 25,34). There, in the heavenly Jerusalem the righteous will reign forever with Christ, glorified in body and soul (Cf. CCC 1038-1050). Thus, the prisoner completes the trajectory of reformation through the ultimate return to paradise to enjoy the eternal salvation.
Thirdly, during the post-formative stage one becomes a model for many others and his/her lifestyle, life-principles and the life-mission continue through the lives of many others. This represents the gradual process of universalisation of one’s life-principles and lifestyles. One becomes an inspiration and model to many; becomes an icon or an image. Many begin to imitate his/her lifestyle and principles. This is a gradual rippling forth from a single person to a community of persons. The idea and the maxim of one become the idea and maxim of many communities and generations. One becomes the other. One becomes the generation and the world. Through these generations, the reformed person continues to live down through many centuries. The reformation of an individual becomes the pivotal point of the Church and world renewal. For instance, the reformed life of Francis of Assisi still continues in the world through his numerous disciples who try to live according to his lifestyle and principles
Fourthly, it is in the post-formative phase that a few who excelled in heroic virtues and underwent martyrdom may be declared to be servants of God, given the title blessed or proclaimed a saint through the canonization process of the Catholic Church. The process of being proclaimed a Father or a Doctor of the Church may also take place at this period. (CCC 828; cf. also LG 40, 48-51).
The prisoner reformation trajectory is neither static nor momentary; instead, it is dynamic and lifelong. It is a continuous and constant process of spiritual growth that involves physical, psychological, intellectual, moral, social and spiritual elements in a person’s life. As the incarnation, hidden and public life, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit form the one saving action of Jesus so is the whole life of a prisoner. The pre-formation, formation, per-formation and post-formation constitute the entire process of reformation. It is the prime duty of all those who engage in prisoner reformation to lead prisoners from the pre-formative phase to the formative, per-formative and post-formative stage so that all may enjoy throughout eternity the unfathomable love of the heavenly Father and may bring forth lasting contributions to mankind.
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 See James Fowler, Stages of Faith. The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning, Harper and Row, New York 1981; Life Maps. Conversations on the Journey of Faith, with Sam Keen, Waco, Word Books, Texas 1978.
 See Francis Kodiyan, Religious Conversion Trajectory and Conversion Trajectory of Charles de Foucauld, PMI Publication, Bangalore 2000.
 See Webster's Third International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged and Britannica World Language Dictionary, III, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Chicago 1976, 2425.
 Francis Kodiyan defines religious conversion as a life-long process of self-awareness, self-transformation, self-actualisation, self-transcendence, deification and socio-political consciousness. See Francis Kodiyan, Religious Conversion Trajectory, PMI Publications, Bangalore 2000, 11-31.
 See JE Royster, “Conversion as Turning, Conversion as Deepening”, Studies in Spirituality, 6 (1996) 239-257.
 See UA del Campo, Processo psicológico de la conversión religiosa de S. Agustin, Pontificia Studiourm Universitas AS Thoma Aq. in Urbe, Roma 1972, 45-78.
 See Teresa of Avila, The Collected Works of St Teresa of Avila, I, tr., K Kavanaugh – O Rodriguez, AVP Publications, Bangalore 1982, 55 ff.
 See N Roche, «Pénitence et conversion dans l’Evangile et la vie chretienne», Nouvelle Revue Theologique, 79 (1957) 123.
 Veekke, “Three ‘R’ Theory for Prisoners’ Reformation and Rehabilitation”, Reformative Explorations, 1/1 (2003) 26. For a critical study on the first rehabilitation centre of Prison Ministry India for released male prisoners, see Anisha, “From Prison to Ashram. A Critical Study on the First Rehabilitation Centre of Prison Ministry India”, Reformative Explorations, 1/2 (2003) 139-161.
 See JE Conklin, Criminology, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York 1992, 149-280; S Yochelson - SE Samenow, The Criminal Personality, I, Jason Aronson, New York 1976, 117-246.
 See John Thomas Kottukappally, “Prison Ministry – World Scenario”, in The Echo, Prison Ministry India, Jesus Fraternity, Bangalore 1995, 35.
 See Bruce Ritter, Sometimes God Has a Kid’s Face, Covenant House, New York 1988; MR McGeady, God’s Lost Children, Covenant House, New York 1991; K Casey, Children of Eve, Covenant House, New York 1991.
 For the first and second stages of renewal and rehabilitation of Prison Ministry India see Francis Kodiyan, Saga of Divine Providence. The History of Jesus Fraternity and Prison Ministry India, PMI Publications, Bangalore 2000; Veekke, “Three ‘R’ Theory for Prisoners’ Rehabilitation and Reformation”, Reformative Explorations, 1/1 (2003) 18-31.
 See Teresa of Avila, The Collected Works of St Teresa of Avila, I, tr., K Kavanaugh – O Rodriguez, AVP Publications, Bangalore 1982, 70.
 See G Jackson, Fact of Conversion, Hodder and Stoughton, London 1909, 125.
 See John Paul II, Reconciliation and Peace, Office of Publishing and Promotion Services United States Catholic Conference, Washington DC 1984, 13.
 See Veekke, “Three ‘R’ Theory for Prisoners’ Reformation and Rehabilitation”, Reformative Explorations, 1/1 (2003) 22-29.
 See H Alphonso, The Personal Vocation. Transformation in Depth through the Spiritual Exercises, Gujarath Sahitya Prakash, Anand 1992, 23-69.
 See Veekke, “Three ‘R’ Theory for Prisoners’ Reformation and Rehabilitation”, Reformative Explorations, 1/1 (2003) 24-25.
 See JM Howe, “Soulscape of a Journey to Spiritual Beings”, Word and Spirit, 15 (1993) 7.
 Avery Dulles, “Revelation and Discovery”, in Theology and Discovery. Essays in Honour of Karl Rahner, S.J., ed., W.J Kelly, Marquette University Press, Milwaukee 1980, 12.
 Anisha, “From Prison to Ashram. A Critical Study on the First Rehabilitation Centre of Prison Ministry India”, Reformative Explorations, 1/2 (2003) 140.
 See Francis Kodiyan, Religious Conversion Trajectory, PMI Publications, Bangalore 1998, 161.
 See Francis Kodiyan, Religious Conversion Trajectory, PMI Publications, Bangalore 1998.
 See E Korthals, “The Gospel of Jesus, Conversion and a Spirituality for Ministry”, Review for Religious, 46 (1987) 380.