||Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and
Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed|
Where Prayer Is the Currency of Choice
By: Dale Recinella
Union Correctional Institution is like a miniature city—except it's a prison.
There are almost 1,000 prisoners who are allowed to walk around and work during the day. They are called general population and are
able to come to the chapel for prayer ministry and worship services. The rest are in solitary confinement. That includes over 330 on
death row, another 400 or so in disciplinary solitary, and about a hundred in psychiatric solitary.
Then there are the men housed in the prison medical hospital. Every malady one finds in an outside hospital is presented inside, too.
Not infrequently, men die here. This prison is growing. Hundreds more psychiatric solitary cells are under construction. [They have come
online in the past five years.]
I am the Catholic lay chaplain. My job is to make the rounds, cell to cell, offering prayer, fellowship and emotional support to each
man. A very few want none of it. Most hunger for all they can get. It takes about four weeks to make the circuit here and at Florida
State Prison next door. That hulking monolith houses over 1,100 men in long-term solitary confinement. It's also the home of the death
house, the execution chamber in the basement of Q-Wing. The upper floors of Q-Wing contain Florida's most severe disciplinary cells:
maximum sensory deprivation, cells built within cells.
These two prisons are my primary work. It's hot—no air-conditioning except for the few cells for crisis stabilization in psychiatric
solitary. When the heat and humidity gets unbearable, as it usually does from the beginning of July until the end of August, an entire
wing will reverberate with the cries and the pounding of men being driven virtually to the edge of insanity by the incessant and unrelieved heat.
The staff who must also function in this environment need spiritual support as well. I'm here for them, too.
There are also the families that come to visit. I'll step out of my car in the parking lot only to see a woman my mother's age bent
over her trunk lid, shaking with gut wrenching sobs. She has just finished a non-contact visit on death row with her husband, or her
son or her grandson. She is facing a lonely 5 or 10 or 20-hour drive home.
Then there are the executions. The week of daily visits called deathwatch. The final five hours at cell front. My wife is with the family
of the condemned while I am with him as he is killed.
Then the post-execution time with his family until they leave for home.
And, most difficult of all, the time spent with the loved ones of the murder victim in non-death penalty cases. A living room,
a dining room, even a home patio can all become a place of solitary confinement for the loved ones who will spend the rest of
their days listening for that cherished voice that they will never hear again—not in this world.
A currency is a standard that reduces everything to a common denominator. What could possibly be a point of connectedness among
all these tears?
There is only one currency, only one legal tender that can bridge these oceans of suffering and sorrow. It is the currency of prayer.
Nothing else can purchase anything of value to minister to the depth of these needs.
First published: The Healing Line (September/October 2002)
© 2002 Dale S. Recinella & The Talahassee Democrat.
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.
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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