Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Letters From Juveniles Serving Life In Prison
The Tragic Lives Of So Many Young People Facing Life In Prison http://en.radiovaticana.va/m_articolo.asp?c=677778 Letters from prison - Radio Vaticana (Vatican Radio) Los Angeles County has one of the highest youth incarceration rates in the country. Up to 90% of the county’s juvenile justice youth are Latino or African American, and up to 70% of incarcerated youth nationally are said to have some kind of disability. After witnessing the tragic lives of so many young people facing life without parole in a juvenile justice system where little rehabilitation takes place and with frighteningly high recidivism rates that continue into adulthood, Jesuit Father Mike Kennedy decided to set up the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative (JRJI) to provide support and hope to juveniles with life sentences. Through the Spiritual Exercise of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a series of meditative prayers helping people find God in their everyday experiences, the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative provides tools that allow prisoners to find healing and forgiveness and to recognize their lives have meaning and purpose. When the young boys at the juvenile detention facility in LA heard of Pope Francis’ wish to celebrate the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper at Rome’s Casal del Marmo prison with the young inmates there, many of them expressed their desire to participate from afar and in close solidarity to what the Pope was going to do in another juvenile hall. To do this they have written letters to Pope Francis, thanking him for his gesture of love and service, praying for him – as he has asked all of us to do, describing the sadness of their lives in detention, and asking for prayers to help them endure the darkness and hopelessness of their situations… As father Kennedy points out, some of these youngsters will spend the rest of their lives in prison. We welcome their voices and publish the letters that will be read at a service Thursday evening with the Director of Novices and 11 Jesuit novices, each one washing the feet of an inmate at the juvenile hall where kids are sentenced as adults. Dear Pope Francis, Thank you for washing the feet of youth like us in Italy. We also are young and made mistakes. Society has given up on us, thank you that you have not given up on us. Dear Pope Francis, I think you are a humble man. When you read this letter you will have washed the feet of other kids like. I am writing this letter because you give me hope. I know one day with people like you us kids won't be given sentences that will keep us in prison for the rest of our lives. I pray for you. Dont forget us. Dear Pope Francis, I don't know if you have ever been to where I live. I have grown up in a jungle of gangs and drugs and violence. I have seen people killed. I have been hurt. We have been victims of violence. It is hard to be young and surrounded by darkness. Pray for me that one day I will be free and be able to help other youth like you do. Dear Pope Francis, Tonight we pray for all victims of violence. The families of people we have hurt need healing. Our families need healing. We are all in pain. Let us feel Jesus' healing tonight. Dear Pope Francis, I know the same youth feet that you wash are like me. Drugs have been part of me life for so long. We all struggle to be sober. But you inspire me and I promise to be sober and help others with the cruel addiction of crystal meth. Dear Pope Francis, My many friends are in two different maximum security prisons in one of our states 33 state prisons.Calif. I am writing to tell you that I feel bad that more youth of color are in prison in our state than any other place in the world. I am inviting you to come here next year to wash our feet, many of who have been sentences to die in prison. God bless you. Dear Pope Francis, I read that the harshest sentence that a youth can receive in Italy is 20 years. I wish this was true here. I hope I hear back from you. I have been catholic and glad I am catholic because I have a pope like you. I will pray for you every day because we need examples of God like you are in this violent world. Dear Pope Francis, I am glad you picked the name Francis. When I was little I read about St.Francis. He is a cool saint. He was a man of peace and simplicity. I am praying to you that you pray that we have peace in our gang filled neighborhoods. Dear Pope Francis, When Jesus washed the feet of his friends he gave an example of humility. I have been raised to believe that it is only with respect in hurting your enemy that you are a man. Tonight you and Jesus show me something in this washing of the feet something very different. I hope we kids learn from this. Dear Pope Francis, I have never been to Rome. I do not know if it is near Los Angeles because all my youth I have only known my neighborhood. I hope one day I will be given a second chance and receive a blessing from you and maybe even have my feet washed on Holy Thursday. Dear Pope Francis, I know you have a good family. I am writing this letter to you because I know that my family is suffering because of me. I know have done some bad things but I am not a bad kid and when last year in our big state we not a new law called SB9 this made me family happy because this is a beautiful message that we kids deserve a second chance. Dear Pope Francis, From reading I know that us kids are capable of making decisions like older people do. I have seen pictures of brains of kids and adults. I am asking you as Pope to help us and help other people understand we can change and want to change.