Pierre Raphael's Inside Rikers Island:
A Chaplain's Search for God
Page 3 of 13 NYCHS excerpts presentation pages.


. . . In 1928, Lewis E. Lawes, warden of Sing Sing prison, quoted John Galsworthy: "If I had one prayer to make, it would be: 'Good God, give me to understand!"'

Sing Sing Warden Lewis E. Lawes

Click image for more on the
NYC and NYS correction career of penal reformer Lewis E.Lawes.

Photo from Guy Cheli's Sing Sing Prison.

The Raphael book has no images illustrating the text. For design and informational purposes, relevant images have been added and captioned by the webmaster.

In this little book, Inside Rikers Island, the chaplain who wrote it is trying to help us understand something about the people locked up in the jails and prisons of this country in an attempt to deal with the crime problem . . . . The prison population in this country increased from 1970-1989 by 250 percent.

. . . It took us nearly 1900 years after Jesus lived among us to understand and then to act on the matter of slavery. It will be a long time yet before we lose our "passion to punish" and to even imagine, and then to believe, that there are viable alternatives to incarceration for 75 percent of the inmate population. . . .

Father Peter, and those like him, respond to the call of Jesus really to love the neighbor, to bless those who hurt us, and not to live by the law of retaliation. It is good for us to read the words of one who, in his quiet way and with great perception and strength, makes clear to us something of the past, present, and the possible future of men and women awaiting trial or enduring a sentence on Rikers Island.

For him the idea that some people are born criminals is a myth. The idea that crime is peculiar to a certain type of person, to a certain race or nationality, he knows to be nonsense.

His book is, in essence, a call to love, to forgive, to try to understand, to let our hearts have a voice. He says: There is no failure and nothing is hopeless for those who begin to love again.



NYCHS presents these text excerpts from Pierre Raphael's Inside Rikers Island: A Chaplain's Search for God by permission of its author who retains the copyright © and reserves all rights thereunder. For more about the book and how to obtain it, contact Fr. Raphael at Abraham House where he is spiritual director, visit Orbis Books, Amazon.Com, or Barnes and Noble.
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