Sr Marie Roche RSJ has spent the last 16 years as a prison chaplain at Rimutaka prison. At the Cathedral’s Social Justice Group inaugural meeting in April, Sr Marie spoke about her chaplaincy and her role in promoting well-being.
She started her talk by reading from Isaiah 61: ‘The Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the broken-hearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.’
Recidivism is of great concern to Sr Marie. ‘Many of the men come from disadvantaged families and marginalised groups within our community. Fifty percent have literacy and numeracy problems. Many are uneducated, were unemployed when they committed their crimes, are poor, have physical or mental illness and addiction problems and have been victims of violence as children.’
Sr Marie said that these men do need to be held accountable and their background is no excuse for their behaviour. But, as a community, we are accountable for ensuring that we have a fair and just criminal justice system.
‘We need to make sure they have purpose in their life, that they have the skills which will help them have a life after they leave prison. This will help them develop self-worth, and reduce the likelihood of re-offending.’
There are around 890 men serving time at Rimutaka prison for a range of criminal offences. Sr Marie talked about how the chief executive of the Corrections Department, Ray Smith, aims to reduce re-offending by 25% within five years.
He envisages that a more wrap around approach to rehabilitation will help address reoffending and prepare these men for a productive life after they leave prison.
The chaplaincy is looking for donations of books, magazines, crossword puzzle books, Colomban calendars (some are already donated by the Society but not enough for every prisoner who wants them), art supplies and talking books.
‘Some of these men have no one in their lives who cares for them. We have prayer cards which include the number of a prison cell. The cards are for people who want to help these men by praying for them.’
If you have goods you would like to donate or would like a prayer card, please ring Elisabeth Poppelwell (027 4655 192), who will coordinate donations and cards with Sr Marie.