Building Bridges, Not Walls: Social Justice Sunday 2011
The Catholic Bishops of Australia are urging all Australians to think about the conditions in our prisons - and to ask who are most likely to find themselves there and why - this Social Justice Sunday (25 September 2011).
The Catholic Bishops last week released their 2011–2012 Social Justice Statement, titled 'Building Bridges, Not Walls: Prisons and the justice system'.
The Statement points out serious shortcomings in Australia’s prisons and in the justice systems, and challenges our citizens and politicians to search for a more constructive way forward.
Australian Catholic Social Justice Council Chairman Bishop Christopher Saunders said the majority of Australian prisoners come from the most disadvantaged sections of the community: Indigenous people, the underprivileged and those suffering from mental illness.
Although rates of crime have overall remained steady, and in some cases have fallen, Australia’s rate of imprisonment has increased dramatically. Between 1984 and 2008, the rate almost doubled.
"We must ask if the justice system is truly delivering justice to our community," Bishop Saunders said.
"Although there will always be a need for prisons to deal with serious offences, there are alternative measures that are more effective in delivering justice and keeping many people out of jail."
In the Statement, the Catholic Bishops call for more productive alternatives to fear campaigns about law and order, for an approach that addresses the social factors that contribute to crime, ensuring the dignity of those in prison, and providing more support for people returning to society.
The Statement urges all citizens to consider how we as a society can make a real difference for those in prison and seeking bridges to a new life.
Resources for Social Justice Sunday - including Liturgy Notes and Community & School Resources - are available at the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council
Download the Catholic Bishops' 2011–2012 Social Justice Statement
Visit Catholic Diocese of Parramatta Social Justice Office
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