“Prisons could be places of resurrection”

Pope Francis has called for more humanity in prisons. It pained him that detention centers were often places of "violence and illegality," he said Thursday at the Vatican.

In addition, staff shortages and "chronic overcrowding" risked undoing rehabilitation measures, the church leader said at an audience for some 600 employees of Rome’s "Regina Coeli" prison. Francis lamented that many prisoners, outcasts from family and society, have no way to defend their rights. "No one can condemn another for mistakes committed, let alone impose on him sufferings that violate human dignity."

There must always be hope for at least partial reintegration, he said. Penalties without this perspective are not helpful. Then prisons could become "a place of resurrection, a conversion of life," the pope said. He cited good prison chaplaincy, well-trained staff and, above all, "compassion according to the example of the Good Samaritan" as the prerequisites for this. He himself still regularly calls a group of prisoners in Buenos Aires, the Argentine-born church leader said.

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