It should be obvious to all by now that the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) is a snake pit and its population of inmates and custodians a brood of vipers with seemingly minimal exceptions.
If the centerpiece of the Philippine jail system reeks of corruption it can be arguably presumed that other jails down the line do not exactly smell like roses. Our prisons are grim proofsof, in general, society’s failure to take care of some of its weakest members.
Specifically, because correctional institutions are part of public service, the deeply entrenched corruption in our jails speaks of government’s failure to set up the infrastructure (facilities and qualified manpower) for the provision of relevant service to this vulnerable yet malevolent sector of society.
Because, however, crime and punishment belong to the realm of morality, the highly immoral practices that go on unabated and with impunity in our jails are grim proof of the egregious failure, in general, of Christians, mostly Catholics, to bring Christ to the prisons and at least mitigate the malevolence of prisoners and custodians alike.
More specifically in this regard, because the institutional Catholic Church lords it over the faithful in terms of morals and doctrinal beliefs, it can be validly argued that the starkly evil situation in our jails indicts the Catholic hierarchy and clergy of failure, in Christ’s words, to “visit me in prison” or otherwise bring Christ’s redemptive work to our prison population.
In Christ’s time a simple visit was probably enough. But visiting Christ in prison today takes a lot more than a simple visit. It even takes a lot more than having Catholic prison chaplains and a daily Eucharistic celebration such as the NBP is reported to have. But, full or part time, the chaplain and his daily mass do not seem to have any positive impact on the morality, basic humanity, and least of all on the spirituality of the NBP’s population.
Visiting Christ in prison today ought to mean a full-blown apostolate to help rehabilitate (spiritualize?) criminals towards a safe and productive re-entry into decent society. It’s hard enough to spiritualize law-abiding folk, how much more hardened criminals. Yet the Catholic Church of bishops and priests must undertake this apostolate. Christ said he did not come for the healthy (in body or soul) but for the sick. He also said enter the kingdom of heaven because “... I was sick and in prison and you visited me.” Matthew, 25: 36.
Why then celebrate 500 years of Christianity when, among others, our penal system is not Christian, not even humane? On the contrary, it is grim proof that Christ’s followers have failed to take Him seriously when he asked to be visited in prison.