2010-07-22 13:27:13

Chilean Bishops Appeal for Clemency and Prison Reform on Eve of Bicentenary

(22 Jul 10 – RV) On Thursday the Bishops of Chile presented a proposal to the President, Sebastián Piñera, the Government and both Houses of Parliament, calling for "amnesty for those currently deprived of their liberty”... RealAudioMP3

In short as the South American nation prepares to celebrate 200 years of Independence, the Church is asking for a pardon for prisoners who have repented and no longer pose a threat to society and for the government to do something about the prison system. In mainstream media this essential part of the Church proposal seems to have been entirely lost.

In a press release accompanying the document entitled “Chile, a [place at the ]table for everyone during the Bicentennial", presented on Thursday, the bishops link their appeal to the old Christian tradition of granting acts of clemency on the eve of great historical events.

The bishops say they are aware of the controversy that their request has provoked and the legitimate concerns voiced by various sectors of civil society. They say they do not want to re-open old wounds but at the same time neither can those wounds be closed by a decree.

The bishops, aware of the delicate and complex individual stories of people now in prison and without getting into technical aspects, appeal to those in authority to take into account the situations of those who have already served most of their prison sentence; prisoners who are over 70 years of age, women with one or more minor children, prisoners suffering from serious illnesses, those disabled or with serious health conditions. In some cases reducing their sentences, in others setting them free -- if they no longer constitute a danger to society and have shown good behaviour in prison.

The bishops also once again draw attention to several aspects of the prison system itself; to the need to make prisons not only more human but also a place for civic, social and spiritual rehabilitation.

Finally, they conclude, this “table for everyone' "would not be complete if their request did not also include persons jailed for human rights offences carried out during the military regime of Augusto Pinochet.

Here the bishops call for serious and deep reflection on the government’s part. They point out that among these people "not all have the same degree of responsibility in the crimes committed" and conclude: " In our view, a general pardon is as much out of the question as a blanket refusal to pardon any former member of the armed forces convicted. " "Proper reflection must distinguish between ... the level of responsibility each one had, the level of freedom they worked under, the humanitarian gestures they made and the repentance they have shown for their crimes”.

All the contents on this site are copyrighted ©.