Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Catholic Louisiana Statewide Prison Ministry Crisis In North Louisiana

Louisiana has one the highest rate of people in jail in the country. The New Orleans Picayune is doing a series of articles on the Louisiana Prison system this week. It strikes me as one of those series that might win awards. So far I have like the series because it's very balanced. There are no "bad guys" as it were as to how Louisiana is dealing with the problem.

A couple of quick observations before I get into the Catholic angle.

This is a frustrating problem with no easy solutions. As to the amount of inmates  we have in Prison  how to reduce that number does not lend to a easy solution. There are various economic, social, cultural, and legal factors. I do think sentencing reform , and alternative sentencing is part of the key , but its not all of it.

On to the Catholic angle of the story.

The Picayune ran a story in this series that kind of cam close to home. See North Louisiana family is a major force in the state's vast prison industry. I sort of having a working knowledge of some of the folks mention and their private Prison facilities. Again I like the reporting  because it's fairly balanced. There are good effects of these private prisons , and bad effects. I would mention one good effect not mentioned is it now easier to keep female inmates awaiting trial much closer to home.

The story is slightly amusing as to the Jackson Parish Sheriff ( who I generally like a lot). His very honest assessment of the pros including the jobs he gets to dispense is pretty funny .

However we see a potential huge Catholic problem here on several angles. First as the article points out the Louisiana Private Prison Industry ,largely based in Protestant  North Louisiana, is fueled by South Louisiana inmates. No doubt being from South Louisiana a somewhat measurable percentage of these are Catholics.

Further the articles make this great point time after time. Catholics , and other religious groups are good at offering a ton of programs at the major State Prisons. There is an abundance!!  At these facilities mention it's the complete opposite. So we have a situation where LIFERS are getting educational certificates , and many people serving far far less sentences in these private facilities  and some Parish Jails are getting NADA. As an earlier article pointed  out perhaps there is a inmate led A.A. program ,but that is about it.

The Spiritual dynamic has not of yet been touched on in this week long series of articles , but is of obvious concerns.

In the end we have a Catholic demo wise population sending inmates into largely the Catholic light Parishes of the Diocese of Alexandria , and Diocese of Shreveport. I suspect that while these Diocese  do an ample job of working the State Prisons these are going under the radar.

It would be interesting to get a Catholic tally of inmates in these prisons to see the scope of the problem. That might be hard since the article indicates the Secretary of Corrections is having a hard time keeping track of who is being moved where. Still I think it should be done.

Second this is a state wide issue. I have said that the Louisiana Catholic Bishops should take a more combined approach to Campus Ministry in this state. I would suggest this might be an area at the next Bishop's meeting they would should look at too. These Northern Louisiana Diocese are no doubt trying , but I doubt they have the resources to hit the scope of the problem.

In New Orleans the Archdiocese is engaging the Second Battle of New Orleans to get the horrible murder and crime rate down. I would humbly suggest having New Orleans inmates bored out of their skull , with no programs to speak of to help enter society, and perhaps lack of spiritual direction is not going to help this battle. I bring this example up to show one facet of the problem that touches Catholic , and non Catholic alike.


Bishops, Priests , and Deacons need to discuss this problem and perhaps how to address it.

Meeting with other other Faith groups is essential.

Finally perhaps the Catholic Bishops should invite the head of   LaSalle Corrections , and other like him in this business, to see how they can assist him in helping these inmates.

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