The care and support of prisoners' families is one of the vital factors in their rehabilitation, says the Archbishop of Westminster in his message for Prisoners' Sunday. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, who is president of the Catholic charity PACT (see below), is calling on Christians to support prisoners' families as one of the best ways to assist prisoners to become full members of society again. He also said that families suffer directly when one of their members is taken into prison. Home Office figures estimate that in 2003 more than 17,700 children were separated from their mothers by imprisonment. The issue of the effect of prisons on families was raised by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales in their report on prisons issued last year. The bishops criticised the insufficient attention given by the criminal justice to the issue in A Place of Redemption (Continuum, 2004). The Cardinal's message for Prisoners' Sunday follows: "Concern and support for those in prison is one of the baldest statements of Jesus' ministry as to how we should serve him. As Christians we are called to believe wholeheartedly in the innate dignity and worth of every person, and in the possibility of redemption, no matter what they may have done. Jesus invited us to see himself in the marginalised, alienated and the rejected, many of whom we now see amongst the 77,000 prisoners in Britain. We know that most people in prison do damage because they themselves are damaged. There are many in prison who suffer from mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction, and whose early lives have been blighted by neglect and cruelty. We also know that there are those who commit suicide and harm themselves out of a sense of worthlessness and despair. How can we as Christians make a difference? These are complicated issues, but we know that for many, the care and support of family can make the biggest single difference in enabling prisoners to achieve rehabilitation, and that families also suffer greatly and need help. The work of PACT, to support prisoners and their families, deserves our wholehearted support, on this Prisoners' Sunday, and throughout the year." The Prisons Advice & Care Trust was founded in 1898 as the Catholic Prison Aid Society. Until recently it was known as the Bourne Trust. PACT works in ten prisons supporting families and children of prisoners. For more information see: www.imprisonment.org.uk Source: Archbishop's House
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