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Vatican seminar addresses dignity of prisoners

Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has stressed that being imprisoned never separates one from God's love and, therefore, from the human dignity that derives from and is rooted in this love.

In a speech on Tuesday to 80 invited guests at the international study seminar on the human rights of prisoners, he said that "prisoners have the right to be considered as a person".

The two-day meeting concluded yesterday at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, which organised the event with the International Commission of Catholic Prison Ministries (ICCPPC).

The cardinal said prisoner's rights must not be an abstract idea but rather "should animate policies and law, social institutions of prevention and prison regulations, and the work done in prisons by offices of civil society."

However, he added, "there are in the world many situations of imprisonment and methods of detention that are even pre-juridical, in the sense that they do not include the most elementary care for the rights of the person."

Christian Kuhn, president of ICCPPC, said that prison chaplains know the enormous danger that crime, especially organised crime, drug trafficking and terrorism represent for society, and underlined that rarely is it the heads of organised crime who are in prison but rather the poor and marginalised. He said that the conclusions of this Vatican meeting will be presented at the 11th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Penal Justice to be held next month in Bangkok.

Cardinal Martino read a telegram sent to participants in this meeting by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of State, in the Pope's name, that said that "His Holiness greatly hopes that these days of reflection contribute to affirming the requisite respect of the permanent human dignity of the individual who has violated the law, so that he continues to feel part of society and committed to be reintegrated into it."

Vatican seminar focuses on human dignity of prisoners (Vatican Information Service 2/3/05)

Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

3 Mar 2005