01-05-2007 - Traces, n. 5
After the March 24th Audience

Maria Rosaria Parruti
Magistrate for the Enforcement of Sentences, Pescara

Convicts, a Holiday
for Prison Guards, and Those
Two Rented Vans

i got the idea of inviting a group of convicts and prison guards from the penitentiaries of Lanciano and Vasto to the meeting with the Pope in St. Peter’s Square because, together with the chaplain of the prison of Vasto, long a friend of mine, I wanted the beauty of the encounter with Christ that had touched me to reach the people I work with every day. I wanted, in short, the opportunity that I had been given to reach them as well.
A person who is sent to prison must, no doubt, have committed some grievous error, which has led to their committal. But nearly always the people who are in this situation have also been denied many of life’s opportunities. What is the rehabilitation our Italian Constitution speaks of in Article 27, if not the attempt to offer these people an opportunity to change? We ask them to reform themselves, but this is possible only if they are aware of their errors.
So it was that we decided to organize the day’s journey. What moved me most was when difficulties arose (because of an error, the presence of the prison officers was not recognized as part of their duty, and therefore no vehicles were made available for the use of the guards and prisoners), the group of prison guards on duty decided to accompany the prisoners by using their holidays, and they rented two nine-seater vans to make up for the lack of transport. They wanted, in short, to be present, even though it meant depriving themselves of a day’s holiday and paying for the transport for all! To my mind, this bore remarkable witness to what Fr. Carrón said to the Pope: “Man’s heart is still capable of recognizing beauty, if we find it on our path.”
There were sixteen of us in all. We were accompanied and assisted by my friends, who gave us passes enabling us to get seats for the occasion.
For obvious security reasons, the detainees were not furnished with umbrellas, but this was also an opportunity for sharing. Together with the agents, we tried to shelter everyone. Detainees and agents were deeply impressed by the intensity of the care everyone showed in following the gestures of the ceremony, by their chorality. Even the rain was an opportunity to tell each other that without some effort nothing good can be constructed.
To those who devoted their energy to organizing the journey, I subsequently sent the very fine article by Marina Corradi published in Avvenire the following day. It struck me as a highly effective judgment on our experience and expressed the hope that the seed sown and all that we saw and understood may flower when and as God chooses.