A delegation from the Province of Brazil visited a state prison of Goiás last week as part of an overview about diaconal actions from the local community. Joined the visit the Primate, the Provincial Secretary, the local priest, a representative from USPG and a representative from the Roman Catholic Prison Pastoral.
It was a painful experience for all of us. We saw the bad situation of the infrastructure and the terrible conditions in what live the prisioners. Inhospitable conditions, unhealthy state, water infiltration in the building could be found besides other serious violations to the dignity of the prisoners. The visit was in one of the three blocks of the institution. We were recomended do not visit the others areas for safety reasons, acording the superintendent. At the block A we saw the prison overcrowding, with an unacceptable rate for up to six prisoners per individual cell.
The feeling I experienced was to be in a completely parallel world, isolated from the rules of dignity and human respect. The atmosphere was plenty of pain and fear. A permanent state of tension between state agents and prisioners, generating a high emotional stress, ready to explod any time.
We heard several complaints of maltreatment, violence, torture and the non-observance of relative rights to the prisoners. The food served in lunch time we saw in low-quality, cold and in low calorie level. Sometimes itens of the food is served in stale conditons.
The Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, trough the local priest Revd. Elias Vergara, is member of a community council created to monitoring the the observance of respect for prisioners' constitutional rights and to guarantee that the appeals from them could be heard by authorities. This serious commitment is not ease to deal, especially in a society that stigmatize people who are in prison.
what we saw in Goiânia is only a small display of what we hear about others prisons around the whole country.
There were many years that I did not go to a penal institution. I went a few times when I was a practicing lawyer. But what I saw in Goiania was like a replay of a horror movie, with only one difference: new faces! The scenario is the same, the sadness is the same!
In this time of Advent the experience marked me deeply and I began to think on the Lord's answer to those who believed themselves as loyal followers: I was imprisoned and you do not visited me!
May God raise in our hearts the love for those who are stigmatized by theirs conditons as prisioners and pardon us for our insensitivity for those who are searching the opportunity for re-discovering the value of the truly freedom.