Sunday, October 27, 2013

International Day of the Prisoner

October 27 is International Day of the Prisoner, and the prison in Les Cayes decided to hold a special Mass and speaking event to mark the occasion. They couldn't find another priest in town, so they asked Fr. Marc to come celebrate.

The Mass was short but inspiring, held in the central courtyard and was followed by speeches from local authorities and a few prison inmates about prisoners' rights and challenges facing the Haitian justice system. It's by and large a broken one, with drastic overcrowding in cells and many inmates staying in jail for months, even years, before being brought before a judge for assessment and sentencing.

Some of the older boys, like Lifaite here and a handful of others in the back, came to serve at Mass, take pictures, or just observe. It's important they understand and struggle with the major social issues of their day; it gives perspective and purpose.

The minors and women inmates could attend Mass in the courtyard with the assembled visitors and staff. Actually, dressed for church, it was hard telling them apart from anyone else in the crowd. The adult men had to stay in and receive communion from their cells. 

A lot of positive things were said by the local dignitaries, like the UN representative from Madagascar here: acknowledgements of flaws, assertions of prisoners' rights, reassurances that steps are being taken towards improving conditions. Here's hoping the talk becomes reality.


  1. A little note: many of the people in the Haitian prison system have been brought in for minor crimes, fighting or just for being in the wrong place. These people may see a judge and if they do it may take many months or years.
    One day, I heard a husband and wife having a fight;
    the neighbors were afraid for the wife and called the police. They arrived; took the husband away and put him in prison. The next day the wife was pleading with the police to release her man. He spent over six months in prison before being released. He never saw a judge. Granted, there are some harden criminals in prison but they too should have timely access to a justice system.

  2. I have spent quite a bit of time visiting the prison over the years, and though I am happy to hear the women and children were able to observe outside of their cell, it breaks my heart to think the next time I am back I will see the same faces waiting to receive their sentence.

    The prison and those inside will always hold an extra special place in my heart. A couple faces are always vividly present in the forefront of my mind.

    Kimbe lespwa.