Archbishop Jason Gordon visited the Port of Spain prison on December 10 as he began his visits to prisons last week.
He was invited by the Programmes and Industry Department to visit to all their correctional institutions. At Port of Spain, he was welcomed by officials among them Senior Superintendent of Programmes Patrick King; Superintendent of Port of Spain Prison, Charmaine Johnson; and Deputy Commissioner of Prisons Mukesh Pulliah.
Archbishop Gordon was accompanied by Deacon Michael Smith, assistant chaplain, and Catholic Prison Secretariat members.
The ceremony began with the singing of the National Anthem, followed by the opening prayer by inmate Russell Lynch. Charmaine Johnson, introduced as “mother of the Port of Spain prison”, gave the welcome address in which she thanked the Catholic community for their continued commitment in partnering and assisting the prison authority to bring about positive change in the lives of inmates.
In his comments, Archbishop Gordon told the inmates about the Church’s celebration now (Advent) and the reason for the celebration of Christmas. He said “because of God’s love for us, He sent His son as a baby to save us…This baby was from royal inheritance and as such we are called to be like Him, live as royalty like Jesus, and live life according to the Golden Rule, ‘do unto others as others will do unto you’.”
He encouraged the inmates to make a choice to love because love can change their lives and the world. In closing, he asked the inmates to ask God to show them how to handle the challenges which prevented them from becoming a loving person and to ask for the grace to forgive those they cannot forgive.
There was a Question and Answer segment with the inmates. One of the questions highlighting a main concern of inmates was if the Archbishop could use his office to advocate on their behalf for a swifter justice system. One inmate informed he had spent 33 years waiting for his appeal to go to the High Court.
Archbishop Gordon responded he would try and address the issue with the Judicature of the High Court, and meet with President Paula Mae Weekes on those matters before the Mercy Committee and also National Security to see if the justice system can improve for them.
Pulliah thanked the Archbishop for the visit and message given to the inmates. The Prison Choir led by Patricia Morris and Outfit International—the inmate band, entertained guests with songs and music for the season. Archbishop Gordon continued with visits last Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. More in a coming issue.
Archbishop Gordon prays with a Death Row inmate. Photo courtesy the Communications Department of the T&T Prison Service.