Reintegration, a systemic issue [1]

The various partners involved in the preparation of the reintegration of persons in detention should be able to work in an interdisciplinary manner in order to network direct actors (the person who committed the offence and the person who was the victim of the offence), but also their relatives and the community of belonging. This is the goal of the systemic approach, which aims to connect an entire set by taking into account the link between all the elements that make up the system.

Restorative justice considers crime above all as an attack on persons and interpersonal relationships, and this view of crime is based on this interconnected network between people before it is an attack on the authority of the state. The offence undermines or even destroys these interconnections. This is why, as the damage caused affects the whole, all the relevant elements of the system must be involved in order to be repaired. It is reciprocity that must be sought, knowing that a change in one of the parties affects the whole.

In this process, prison chaplaincy is a reintegration partner. Indeed, it is through accompaniment that the chaplain can help prepare for the reintegration of the person in detention, in particular by rereading his journey in the light of the Word of God, rich in mercy. In this way, the detainee, knowing that he is loved and forgiven, will be better able to accept responsibility for his actions and to recognize the suffering of the victims and will be better able to re-create bonds.

Initiatives such as the "Alpha-prison" route and the participation of detainees in activities proposed by Catholic pastoral care in the prison (choral, liturgical preparation…) are spiritual and pedagogical means that help prepare for reintegration. However, it is important to involve Christian communities also by raising awareness of the prison reality and the challenge of supporting these people in the struggle of reintegration so that they no longer have to return to this hell!

Reparation at the heart of victim assistance

Reparation is a key word underlined by the principles of restorative justice. It is essential to understand and recognize the damages, the consequence of the offence committed, because the crime affects the entire relational system. So it's the whole thing that needs to be included in the repair process. In this sense, the Way of the Cross presided over by Pope Francis on Good Friday (April 10, 2020) helps us to better realize that the offender is often himself a victim of the imbalance of an entire system.

If assistance to victims requires support whose non-judgmental listening is at the centre, the willingness to start a whole process of reparation for all parties involved is also important. The whole thing must be repaired. In this complexity, at the heart of the accompaniment, in the indescribable suffering that holds the heart of the one who is the victim of his own environment or of crime, only Christ can heal and free because "it was our sufferings that he bore, our pains for which he was charged. […] The punishment that gives us peace has weighed on him: through his wounds, we are healed. We were all wandering like sheep, each following his own path. But the Lord has made our faults fall on him all" (Is 53, 4-6).

Interfaith dialogue, a partner in reintegration

Living interreligious dialogue in prison is a testament to tolerance and respect for others regardless of their belonging. This dialogue is nourished by the faith that animates everyone and for Christians it is faith in a trinitarian God. It is love that puts us "out" towards others because at the heart of our faith is the merciful love of the Father, revealed in his Son, who acts in our lives through the Spirit.

The God of the Bible is the God of dialogue who makes an alliance with man, and interfaith dialogue testifies that religion is a factor of peace. This dialogue contributes to being together credible partners who, together with others, prepare for the reintegration of the brothers who have been tried and even stigmatized by this time lived in prison. This interfaith dialogue is built within the prison through simple and humble gestures of everyday life: greetings, sharing of what is unique to our religious traditions during festivals, sharing on solidarity commitment, etc. Indeed, as Cardinal Tauran points out: "Religions are part of the solution, not the problem.[2]"

With St. Paul we can say: "There is no more Jew or Greek, there is no more slaves or free men, there is no longer man and woman, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.(Ga 3.28)

Sister Beny, scj

[1] Sister Beny's contribution to the E-SEMINAIRE: Preaching Jesus in Prison, proposed by DOMUNI University

[2] Cardinal Jean Louis TAURIN, I believe in man.Religions are part of the solution, not the problem. Bayard 2016