“We wash the prisoners’ feet, so they can walk again.” That is the meaning of the mission Giorgio Pieri is carrying out inside Pope John XXIII Community Association’s project “Prison Service”. “Serving these brothers means introducing them to Jesus, taking them to the One Who heals us from our sins.” Like Christ who washed His disciples’ feet during the Last Supper, explaining he had not come “to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many others”, the volunteers of the association founded by Father Oreste Benzi, spend their lives in the service of the last.
Stories of neglect, degraded family environments, lack of training and cultural growth opportunities, but very often also poverty and lack of job are common characteristics of those who have chosen the path of delinquency. People who have been injured once, who find themselves alone and lost. “The street embraces their anger – Giorgio explains to Interris -. Thus, they find themselves catapulted into a world of violence, lawlessness, and crimes.
Those who made a mistake, must pay. And they go to jail. “Prisons are a violent environment – Giorgio has added -, 70% of prisoners use psychotropic drugs and at least one suicide per week is committed there.” Besides, according to a national average statistics, about 70-75% of inmates commit crimes again after they serve their sentence in prison.
They do not know where to go once they get out of the prison. In most cases, their house was sequestered, friends have forgotten about them and their families have abandoned them. Once the prison door closes behind them, and there is the whole world in front of them, they find themselves with nothing but a black bag with their belongings. Also, they will always be identified with the crime they committed.
“It happens because we live in an absent society”. For George and the other volunteers of the Association, in is extremely important to worry not only about making those who committed a crime pay for it, but also about using the sentence for a rehabilitative purpose, so as to put true values in the right order.
The project “Beyond bars” was born exactly to answer to this need. Together with the institutions, on the one hand it provides contact in prison through conversation and all kinds of entertaining activities; whereas on the other hand it develops and tests new methods of execution of the sentence, whose goal is the rehabilitation of the individual.
That is also the reason why in 2004 was founded the “Mother of forgiveness” home, a structure that offers inmates an educational process in a homely and family-like atmosphere. “Forgiveness is essential – Giorgio explains -, it is necessary to forgive in order to heal the wounds.” The structure is part of the CEC (Educating Community with Prisoners) project and offers education in human and religious values.
“Spending time with inmates makes you realize that they are fragile. Some of them were perpetrators in the past – Giorgio said – but before it happened, they had been victims in a society.” A slap in the face of the people who consider them to be social rejects.