On Holy Thursday last year Pope Francis paid a visit to the prison to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper with inmates and staff. Nearly a year on, the directors and staff of the prison were greeted by the Pope recently at the Vatican's Paul VI Hall. Addressing the 600 people present, Pope Francis spoke of jail as being a place of punishment and suffering, adding that, “it needs much attention and humanity.”
In prison he said, “everyone, penitentiary police, chaplains, educators and volunteers, are called to the difficult task of healing the wounds of those who, through mistakes made, find themselves deprived of their personal freedom.”
Prisons, the Pope observed, “need to be increasingly humanised, and it is painful to hear that they are often considered to be places of violence and illegality, where human wickedness is rampant.”
Pope Francis also commented that many prisoners who are in jail are poor; they have no references, he said, “no security, no family, no means to defend their rights, they are marginalised and abandoned to their fate. For society they are uncomfortable individuals, a waste, a burden.”
Turning his attention to prison staff, the Pope noted that their jobs could be stressful and frustrating due to shortages of personnel and chronic overcrowding.
“Work-related stress caused by pressing shifts and often the distance from families are factors that weigh down a job that already involves a certain psychological effort,” he said. “Therefore, professional figures like you need a personal balance and valid motivations constantly renewed.”
Experience shows, Pope Francis underlined, “that prison, with the help of prison workers, can truly become a place of redemption, resurrection and a change of life, and all this is possible through paths of faith, work and professional training, but especially of spiritual closeness and compassion.”