I Was In Prison
Online Prison Ministry Newsletter
December 7, 2006
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


I Give, Therefore I Am
By: Dale Recinella

Years ago in the streets of Tallahassee, the itinerant mentally ill taught me a tremendous lesson.
As payee for several of them, I handled their government disability funds. Most of the meager monthly amount went for rent, utilities and food. But it was possible to save some for Christmas. I had expected them to joyfully splurge on themselves in a Christmas shopping binge.

“What would you like to do with your Christmas money?”I had asked one of my charges, a tall man in his mid-fifties who had been no different from any of us “normal” people until a physical brain injury in an accident. He paused thoughtfully, pushing out his left cheek with his tongue.

“Ya know,” he looked down shyly, rubbing his ear as he spoke, “Since I gotten sick, I’ve never been able to buy any presents for my friends.”

In response to my astonishment, he began shuffling his feet and stuttering apologetically.

“R-r-really, Mister Dale, I-I-I just want to g-g-g-ive presents to my friends. That-at-at’s all I want for Christmas”

I grabbed him in a bear hug. “We are going Christmas shopping for your friends!”

I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Our Catholic faith teaches that we are each made in the image of God. That is the basis for the dignity of human life. Of all the traits manifested by that God, perhaps none has been more pronounced than God’s propensity to give gifts—even the gift of God’s only begotten Son. By grace, it is in our nature to give.

Our Pope John Paul II has challenged us to recognize this dignity, this image of the Giver, in every human being. He has specifically challenged us to see “that the dignity of human life never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform.”

Now I walk the corridors of Florida’s death row with the memory of my friend and the teaching of my Church in hand. How do my brothers on death row live out the image of God the Giver?

I have been amazed. As they sit for hours on end in their cells, many allow their time to be redeemed and the image of God to be expressed by preparing gifts for others.

One elderly fellow shows me a picture of a six year-old girl. The image of the Giver in him wants to surprise her. With an ear-to-ear toothless grin, he proudly displays the sweater he is knitting for her.

Another death row inmate hand-paints a replica of a traditional Catholic picture for his daughter. He himself is Protestant. But the image of God in him reaches beyond doctrine to give a gift that will inspire and encourage her while her father is on death row.

Still another meticulously crafts Bible verses in calligraphy to send to the mission fields. A mentally retarded young man spends long hours writing letters of spiritual encouragement to tired ministers of God’s Word. Yet another is drawing a clown card in color for a third grade CCD student.

Recently, a Florida newspaper reported the effort by some in Florida to prohibit death row inmates from having the instruments they need to give to others, to replace Godliness with idleness.

My Catholic response is absolutely clear: The dignity of human life, the image of God the Giver, must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.

We must protect society without denying criminals the chance to reform.



First published: The Florida Catholic, January 20, 2000
© 2000 Dale S. Recinella & The Florida Catholic.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.

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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

If you Like this Weekly Ezine - You will love Dale's Book!
Sr. Patricia Proctor
Paperback: 433 pages

Excellent book on the topic!,
June 13, 2005 Nathan Eanes
(Review from Amazon.com)

The Biblical Truth about America's Death Penalty is a must-read. It deals with Biblical standards of Capital Punishment and then compares them to the system used in America today. It is the best-researched, most faithful to scripture, and most evenhanded analysis I have ever read concerning the Death Penalty. Whatever your persuasion on the issue, this book will teach you a great deal. Recinella is a trained lawyer and committed Christian who now volunteers part-time on Florida's death row. He thus understands law, the Bible, and the system of execution in America. I challenge anyone who supports the Death Penalty to read this book.



This ezine edited by Sister Patricia Proctor, OSC - Poor Clare Sister
to support the IWasInPrison Outreach