Australian bishop calls for restorative justice for prisoners

 In some parts of Australia, (as in several other developed countries), the prison population has grown more than 40% in the past decade. Speaking on the eve of Social Justice Sunday (25 September) Bishop Patrick Power, Auxiliary of Canberra-Goulburn, said the day should be a time for reflection and concrete acts of solidarity for prisoners "who are often desperately lonely and totally ignorant of God's love for them." Quoting the Gospel verse "When I was in prison you visited me" (Mt 25, 31-46), Bishop Patrick said Christians are challenged to promote wider recognition that prisons are not the answer to crime, and often are little more than schools for crime. He said it was necessary to promote awareness of alternatives to the imprisonment process - and the most positive of these was the concept of restorative justice. Restorative justice is based on the idea of engaging the offender with his or her own community and and victims, rather than isolating him (or her) in a courtroom and in jail. It is also necessary the Bishop said to offer prisoners a chance to work or study to obtain professional qualifications in order to reintegrate in society. This system is more effective than traditional prison punishment. The Australian Bishops' Social Justice Sunday statement: Jesus, Light for the World, reflects God's love not only for those who go to Church, but also - and even more particularly - for those who may feel themselves to be far away from it, and calls attention to Christian solidarity. To mark Social Justice Sunday, the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council circulates its annual Social Statement in Catholic parishes, dioceses and institutes across the nation and promotes initiatives to increase awareness and projects to provide concrete assistance for needy and disadvantaged groups. Source: Fides

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