Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Juvenile Prison a Storehouse of Souls

What follows ins an excerpt from an interview done with Katerini Gouli, a Greek journalist and juvenile prison worker. She was interviewed by Nicholas Karellos, staff correspondent for Road to Emmaus Journal. Her is what she said:

For many years, though, it was part of my prayer to find a way to help these children, to help all children faced with neglect or prison. Finally, in 2000, I began a radio program for the Greek Orthodox Church radio station. The name of the show was “Students Have a Say.” Many students came to the radio station, and with the cooperation of the Ministry of Education I went to schools, where children of all ages were able to express their heartaches, their problems, their hopes. The show became a link between the students and society as a whole.

This program was broadcast all over Greece, Cyprus and even internationally, and after two very successful years, I began to think about doing the show from within
youth prisons. I investigated the possibilities and then submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Justice with an unheard of request – that I, as a journalist, might work
within the prison on a continuing basis. This had never been done before. Glory to God, I was given permission and the doors opened to me, after twenty years of waiting. Ours is the first radio program ever to be broadcast from within a Greek prison.

My conclusions are bitter; the reality of children’s prisons is very cruel. The Greek court process and the juvenile laws I’d tried to investigate twenty years ago not only remain old-fashioned, but belong to 18th- and 19th century jurisprudence, and I have the impression that other European countries are not much farther ahead.

A juvenile prison is a storehouse of souls. Without a doubt, the major lack in these children, as well as in our society, is love. What is missing is Christ’s love, and all the practical actions that derive from that love. As an example, one 13 year-old boy from a large family of seven children stole seven loaves of bread. He was in prison for seven months. This is an eye-catching example of our contemporary loveless society. He not only had the usual problems of the teenage years, but problems of poverty as well. At the time of his crime, his body and soul were intact. In prison, both his body and soul were abused, and he was released a psychological wreck.

Prison conditions are very cruel and it is horrible seeing naturally active teenagers, hardly more than young children, locked in a cell, or pacing back and forth in a prison yard like beasts in a zoo. In this delicate phase of their lives, precisely the stage when their adult personality and character are being formed, these naturally productive and active teenagers are being violated and ruined. And, as we know, juvenile crime is increasing in every country beyond any previous level.

When a youth breaks the law of the family or of society, he is almost always asking for attention. Parents in Greece often struggle with double, sometimes triple jobs to provide for the family and a proper education, and in the end can forget the child for whom they work. Hundreds of troubled children have been on my radio show with one common complaint: “I don’t see my mother.” “I don’t see my parents.”

Read it all here.

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