||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
Catholic Teaching and the Realities of the American Death Penalty
Presenter: Dale S. Recinella, Catholic Lay Chaplain Florida Death Row
Monday, May 18th — 9:30 – 11:00 am
St. Patrick Interparish Catholic School
550 NE 16th Street, Gainesville, FL 32601
(Not Open to Public)
For Information mail to: Deacon Jack Raymond
Or by phone (352) 376-9878
Sounds of Silence
By: Dale S. Recinella
This low rise block building of alternating earth tones doesn’t mesh with the mammoth edifices jockeying for position inside the razor wire fences.
The slanted shingle roof with air-conditioning vents has no counterpart in the landscape of flat-topped “factory air” buildings.
Clearly, this is no ordinary prison building. It’s even unlike any hospital I’ve seen, inside or outside of prison.
This is psychiatric solitary confinement. It’s not easy for an inmate to get assigned to this place.
A major Florida newspaper recently reported that more than one out of every nine Florida inmates is severely mentally ill. That doesn’t mean
sociopaths—that means people in need of medication and treatment. That number translates to about 7000 inmates. It would take seven or eight air
conditioned prisons of 1000 cells each to hold and treat that many severely mentally ill inmates. They don’t exist.
We Florida taxpayers want no part of that—coddling criminals just because they are severely mentally ill. We’re paying for punishment,
not for treatment. Many of them will swelter in regular solitary confinement cells for years at a time. That’s standard drill for our mentally ill.
The men who come to psychiatric solitary are much sicker than just severely mentally ill. Because they are so sick, their medications are
strong enough to kill them in the ordinary heat of a Florida prison. So, they are sent here. Some here are Catholic. Some receive Communion
regularly. Today is the one day each month that I bring Jesus in my pocket to the Catholics in psychiatric solitary confinement.
As I enter the first thing that hits me is the silence. It is incredibly quiet. None of the shrieking, pounding, banging, kicking or
pleading that is normal in regular solitary confinement. Here it is quiet in the extreme.
Otherwise, it’s like confinement except each cell door is totally transparent. There’s still the feeding hole flap at waist level.
But the man inside each cell is totally visible. To my surprise, this is almost harder for me to handle than the steel doors of regular solitary.
With an officer close at hand, I make the rounds. Reading material must not have staples. Rosaries must be “break away” string.
Communion must be on the tongue—but I’ve been warned to watch for any sudden movement of the neck or face that would signal an
attempt to bite my fingers. It has not happened.
As I close the Eucharist with a middle aged Catholic man, there is a scratching noise from a cell across the hall. It’s a young man. H
e motions me to his cell.
“What do you need?” I ask softly.
“The voices,” he holds his hands to his head. “Please, make the voices go away.”
I turn to the officer. He nods and unlocks the flap.
As I kneel on the concrete floor outside the cell, I motion to the youth inside, “Kneel down so I can place my hand through the door and on your shoulder.”
He falls to his knees. We pray. We pray renunciation of any involvement in the occult, in the Satanic or in the power of evil. We pray
for protection by the Holy Angels, for the intercession of Our Lady and the Saints, and for his ultimate healing at the hands of Jesus Christ.
We are done. The officer locks the flap. It is quiet again.
I wend my way past the dozens of cells with inscrutable men behind transparent doors, through four or five electric gates, and finally outside.
Prison noises from the laundry and the mess waft across the compound. I’m back in the real part of the unreal world.
First published: The Florida Catholic February 17, 2000
© 2009 Dale S. Recinella & The Florida Catholic.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.
I Was In Prison
News & Updates
This ezine is targeted for people involved in prison ministry or in stopping the death penalty, we think you will find helpful information for people who are undecided about capital punishment, for those who have never experienced the inside of a jail or prison, and for those who feel called to participate through prayer and adoration.
Your name and information will never be used or shared with anyone. We promise!
Dale S. Recinella
, Catholic Lay Chaplain, Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella
, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed