Aleteia

UK charity works for prison reform based on Catholic social teaching

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Pact follows the guidance of Pope Benedict XVI and says “it is good that you exist.”

The UK-based national prison charity, Pact, has released a five-year plan to reform the support system for prisoners in the hope of improving rehabilitation. The plan draws heavily upon Catholic teaching, which says that all people are deserving of human dignity and the opportunity to be productive members of society.

The first step, they say, is to do away with the term “offender,” which they believe is counter-productive to reintroducing ex-prisoners —  or “service users,” as they prefer to call them — back into society. The approach echoes the philosophy of Soren Kierkegaard, who said, “Once you label me you negate me.”

In the nine-minute mission outline, featured above, staff members said:

“As human beings we are not defined by the bad things we have done in our lives. We can all hope for a narrative of redemption.”

Pact suggests that what prisoners need is a stronger support system that draws upon family members. According to a national study by the Ministry of Justice, ex-prisoners are up to 40% less likely to re-offend if supported by family members.

In order to realize these goals, Pact would like to increase the group’s numbers by an additional 1,000 volunteers. These workers will be trained under the principle, “Not about us, without use.” This means that they do not speak on behalf of the people they serve, but rather their role is to support, facilitate, and equip the people they serve to speak for themselves.

In the video, their staff says that this concept of inherent dignity in every human being is a result of their “living roots.” They say:

“We are firmly rooted in the Christian faith and Catholic social teaching.”

On their website, Pact’s President, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, is quoted saying:

“Pact is the major Catholic charity providing support for prisoners and their families, working in most prisons across England and Wales. This work is a direct expression of our discipleship and a very concrete expression of our desire to serve the Lord in those who are most vulnerable.”

If you are interested in becoming one of the thousand volunteers they are looking to add to their ranks, click here.

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