Brother Peter Donohue, C.F.X., now retired and living at Xaverian House in Danvers MA, ministered for many years in the American prison system. He managed the Education Department in Baltimore and also served in Los Angeles County for many years. He recounts the difficulty of getting people to see prisoners with the eyes of Jesus.
Transcript: “We had a very successful Education Department. The first time we gave the G.E.D. test we didn’t get the results back. And finally I called the State Superintendent and he called a special meeting. Well, when I went into the meeting, the people who ran the G.E.D. test had the pictures of all these inmates–identifying them, when they took the test. And, God, it was when they were captured, you know, and they looked like pretty bad people. And they said, ‘ninety some percent of them passed the G.E.D. test. How can that be?’ And the State Superintendent listened to all of this and he ended up apologizing to me, told me we’d have the G.E.D.’s for these people, you know, next week. And he asked me, you know, did I have anything to add. And I said, ‘Well, we’re so happy that we’re giving it, we’d like to give it three times a year, after each semester.’ And he looked at me and laughed, and he said, ‘OK.'”
“They just believe that prisoners should be beaten, disciplined, and made to do things. And my system was to love them. And my volunteers, that was their attitude too. And I was very thankful for that, because I know we actually helped a lot of prisoners.”
“Restorative justice has to be much, much, much, much more important. It was in Jesus Christ’s life.”
Fine work and reflection by Peter Donahue. Here in Virginia Pete Mahoney and I have spent our 20+ year tenure in the Commonwealth focused on, among other issues, prison ministry, prison reform and capital punishment. Restorative justice is the seed of much needed reform, but is not too widespread. Currently the emphasis in the Commonwealth of Virginia is on restoration of rights. A particular interest of my own is that of geriatric which is on the books, i.e. in the Code of Virginia, but is broadly ignored.
Work on behalf of these marginalized citizens is surely a response to Matthew 25:35ff.