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Prisoners 'have rights too', says lawyer

Catholic lawyer tells prison ministry workers more must be done to help convicts

  • Konradus Epa, Jakarta
  • Indonesia
  • May 31, 2011
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A Catholic lawyer has told prison ministry workers that despite forfeiting their freedom prisoners still have rights and legal problems.

“Servants of prison ministries should understand the rights of prisoners and the law as well, because prisoners’ rights are still neglected and they still face legal problems,” Frans Winarta told 50 members of the Prison Ministry Forum at a seminar on Saturday at St. Paschalis Church in Central Jakarta.

He said seeing family members, access to health care programs, and praying are just some of those rights.

“If you hear about or see a violation against a prisoner’s rights, you should report it to the National Human Rights Commission [Komnas HAM] or other related NGOs,” he said.

Winarta also suggested that they carry out their mission as Catholics, which is to show love and compassion, even though they might encounter obstacles.

Forum chairwoman, Dr. Irene Setiadi, acknowledged that her organization was having difficulties serving Catholic prisoners in all eight prisons located in Jakarta archdiocese. Each of these prisons has about 20-50 Catholic prisoners.

One is finding a priest to lead Eucharist services in the prisons.

“I hope Church members, including priests, Religious and laypeople, will become more actively involved in serving prisoners,” she said.

One participant, Cecilia Marwadi, said she has served prisoners for years. However, she lamented the lack of attention the Catholic Church has paid to Catholic prisoners.

The archdiocese’s episcopal vicar, Jesuit Father Alexius Andang Listya Binawan, called on forum members to work together in serving prisoners.

“You should communicate with each other to work more effectively,” he said.

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