THE PRISON CHAPLAIN AS PRISON ADMINISTRATOR
If there is any profession that should deal with the rehabilitation and welfare of prisoners, it is the prison chaplaincy itself. Security and support administrative services are at the fringes of corrective operations. It is there in the law in the first place. The mandate of corrections says it all: Effective rehabilitation and safekeeping of prisoners. It could have been rephrased as effective safekeeping and rehabilitation but it is not.
The entire spectrum of corrections in reality however is focused on security and has relegated rehabilitation to a mere lip service. An understanding of the law should therefore be emphasized to correct this alignment of formal concerns. Even in the matter of appropriating resources, rehabilitation lags behind. And yet in the appreciation of the entire mandate, it is rehabilitation, which is rated foremost.
An institution’s relevance and effective posture in the criminal justice administration depends of the successful integration of released prisoners in the mainstream of the free community. Of course, it is given that a person serving time must be confined, secured and segregated physically from the rest of the population. There are infrastructure and various security instruments mechanically imposed along with trained personnel to supervise the facility to assure this set-up. It is therefore the program for the prison community that counts most in ensuring change, reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners that should be concerned.
It is what corrections is all about. It is a far cry from how our ancestors conducted their brand of dealing with their offenders. In the past, there was banishment, there was throwing into the wild or into the hostile waters, there was pushing into the cauldron of boiling oil, burning at the stake and eventually through crucifixion, hanging and torture. The problem however was not on the manner but on the determination of those who would undergo the punishment. As it were, there were innocents in the midst considering the limitations of the law, political or religious beliefs, incompetence of legal services and ineptitude of the courts.
Man’s life or humanity’s integrity is too precious and too valuable to ignore. To impose an injury that would deform it is fatal if not tragic.
The criminal justice system is moving towards retributive and integrative approach in dealing with offenders and no sooner that prisons would fade into the background, rescinding further to become museum piece in favor of a community based or socially effective means on dealing with the consequence of crime by expanding even the concept of indemnity, reparation and insurance.
Following this evolving humane policy and what the law implies is the introduction of the prison chaplaincy at the seat of corrective administration. He is, after all, the symbol of active community service, matured human understanding and fair play.
Furthermore, the prison chaplain has at his command and influence an army of church workers, civic volunteers, philanthropists, who are more than willing to extend a helping hand in their respective crusade for human rights and human dignity even in such places considered the most dangerous milieu in the universe: the prison community. And they would gladly do it without seeking government appropriation or material consideration.