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Re-imagining prison policy

 

The launch of Re-Imagining Imprisonment: Effects, Failures and the Future edited by Eoin Carroll and Kevin Warner took place on Thursday 5th June in City Hall. The book stems from proceedings of an international conference which was held in Dublin in September 2012, organised by JCFJ on behalf of the Antwerp-based Jesuit Scribani Network.

The book was launched in City Hall by Fr Greg Boyle SJ, who was formerly a chaplain in Folsom State Prison, California and is now Executive Director of ‘Homeboy Industries’, a non-profit organisation working with ex-gang members in Los Angeles. In his speech, Greg spoke about the need to be conscious of the inherit kinship of human beings in order to create real social change, saying, “No peace without kinship. No community without kinship. No transformation without kinship. We have forgotten that we belong to one another.”

He was not fatalistic in his outlook saying that hope is more potent than fear, but asked the 100+ guests how do we, collectively, pull people together, how do we make sure that everyone is part of the one community – for it is impossible to demonise people we know! Greg outlined some of the initiatives that Homeboy Industry provides to ex-gang members in LA, these opportunities are a way out of re-offending.

Ian O’Donnell who lectures in criminology at UCD stated that solutions to problems in the prison system are known, it is a lack of urgency, follow through, structure and critical scrutiny that is preventing these solutions from being implemented. He noted, disappointingly, that the lack of urgency comes down to a lack of public and political concern. Reflecting on the writings of Viktor Frankl he described the resilience of the person in prison. This was very much reflected in the story Ian told of Irvin Moore who at the age of 66 has been in prison since he was 22 and will be there until he dies.

Left to right: Eoin Carroll, Barbara Segaert, Ian O’Donnell, Kevin Warner, Greg Boyle, Peter McVerry, John Guiney

Eoin Carroll – co-editor of the book with Dr. Kevin Warner – also spoke at the launch. He referred to the importance of the book in the continuing efforts of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice’s work in promoting better prison policy. Quoting from the book he said “the only way to re-imagine imprisonment is to put it where it belongs – at the far end of any justice system as a punishment of absolute last resort.”

Eoin also spoke of his meeting with President Higgins a week earlier and the President’s passion and commitment to social justice.
Fr John Guiney SJ, Director of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, who MC’ed the launch ended with a quote by Juliet Lyon (who authored a chapter in the book),

We will not solve the problems of imprisonment by looking within prisons.  Solutions do not lie behind prison walls: instead they lie within communities, within housing, within education, within work, within families.  If we are to re-imagine imprisonment we must reintegrate prison back into communities.  We must make prison smaller, smaller in our minds and smaller  in our number and capacity…

The book can be ordered here (http://www.theliffeypress.com/re-imagining-imprisonment-in-europe-edited-by-eoin-carroll-and-kevin-warner.html) from the Liffey Press. Alternatively click here (http://www.jcfj.ie/images/stories/pdf/ReimaginingImprisonment/reimagining_imprisonment_in_europe_flyer_two_page.pdf) for an order form.