“It is an initiative of the Church to be closer to prisoners and show them the mercy of God. The day also highlights the existential realities of Ivorian prisons,” the executive secretary of the national subcommittee on pastoral care of prisons, Fr. Charles Olidjo Siwa said during the Eucharistic celebration at Sts. Peter and Paul Divo Parish of Gagnoa Archdiocese.
Ivory Coast has 34 prisons and correctional facilities with a prison population of 16,800 inmates, according to a report.
The country's largest and most famous prison, the Correctional and Detention Center in Abidjan (MACA), designed to accommodate 1,500 inmates, today has a prison population of 7,400 prisoners.
In their April 12 message, Catholic Bishops in Ivory Coast call on relevant authorities to address the living conditions in “prisons and correctional facilities, most of which suffer from a worrying state of overcrowding.”
“The most striking example is that of the Abidjan prison (Maca), which had an initial capacity of 2,000 inmates and a total of more than 7,000 inmates. The cases of the prisons of Daloa, Man, Soubré and Bondoukou are indicative of the overcrowding of our prisons,” the Bishops say through the leadership of CJPCE.
This deplorable situation, the Bishops say in the message read Fr. Olidjo, “seriously undermines the dignity of the human person who at all times and on all occasions must be preserved.”
The Catholic Church leaders further note that in almost all prisons and correctional facilities in the West African nation, “there is a lack of training and apprenticeship facilities for trades that can help prisoners to reintegrate into society after their release.”
“As a spiritual and social partner of the State of Ivory Coast, we want to participate more in activities that create life and dignity for our brothers and sisters in prison,” they say.
Addressing themselves to the inmates, the Bishops appeal for “the conversion and repentance of the prodigal son who has become aware of his sinful state and who returns to the Father's house, free of all hatred, of all spirit of revenge, nourished by the virtue of love and forgiveness.”
They implore God to have mercy on “our fellow brothers and sisters, to whom the criminal acts of the prisoners have caused pain.”