Anxious prisoners in Philadelphia jail prepare for papal visit

Philadelphia  – Prisoners in Philadelphia jail are preparing for the visit of Pope Francis.

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With six weeks to the Pope’s arrival, the inmates are waiting to find out which of them would be chosen to meet him.

Lou Giorla, Philadelphia City Prison Commissioner on Thursday in Philadelphia described the visit by the Pope is `an extraordinary thing.’

Giorla, who was overseeing preparations for the Sept. 27 visit, said it was a busy and anxious time for many of the employees as well as the inmates.

He said the visit was scheduled to consist of a brief meeting in a gymnasium with about 100 male and female inmates and their families.

Giorla, who learnt in February that the Vatican was considering one of his jails for the papal visit, said his staff hoped the Pope would use the occasion to recognise the value of their work, which he said was mostly overlooked.

“The entire complex will go on lock down during the Papal visit and the U.S. Secret Service is set to take over security for the Pope and city courts will close, delaying prisoner transfers,’’ he said.

Advocates for prisoner rights said the Pope’s visit to the inner-city jail, would serve as a reminder of the emphasis the he placed on issues of social justice.

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The group said as an outspoken opponent of the death penalty and lengthy prison terms, his stop at the Philadelphia facility would be the latest in a series of prison visits.

Barack Obama, who last month became the first sitting U.S. president to tour a federal penitentiary, has called for legislation overhauling sentencing rules.

Ann Schwartzman, Policy and Programme Director at the Pennsylvania Prison, said the visit would bring a level of humanity to the prison world and show that prisoners are people and deserve to be recognised. (Reuters/NAN)

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