Pierre Raphael's Inside Rikers Island:
A Chaplain's Search for God
Page 4 of 13 NYCHS excerpts presentation pages.


Arrested, handcuffed for the first time in my life, thrown into a dehumanizing filthy room, the bull pen, I made my first entrance into a labyrinth of pain, suffering, and surprise. . . .

I am a prisoner, the extreme product and sign of a society torn with conflicting values. . . . Desperate, I search for peace and the remedy for my torments. . . .

My prayers are answered: a door is opened and inside there are people who care. They make me feel like a child of God. I hear greetings of forgiveness. This is the door of the church of HDM (House of Detention for Men, the hard core of Rikers Island). A church of love lives inside these walls. A refuge of peace is nurtured by the faith and hard work of a pastoral team of brothers and sisters. They have moved mountains in HDM. . . . .

Front entrance to HDM (now JATC).

Click image for more on the
former House of Detention for Men, now the James A. Thomas Center, on Rikers Island.

Photo by NYCHS.

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

Thanks to the many efforts and wise interventions of Sister Simone, Fr. Peter, and other members of the team, I am now closer than ever with my family. I was able to be reunited with them after three years of estrangement. Now they, too, are growing with our shared experience.

Through these brothers and sisters I have met a group of wonderful and loving individuals who have accepted me as -another member of their family. This is an honor and blessing for me. Each one of these friends has contributed with support and trust to the reconstruction of my life.

Only God knows the years I will be kept behind these iron bars. But these years won't be wasted. With the tremendous help of this beautiful team, these years will be fruitful. Not only have I been helped to survive this tragedy, but I have received enough faith and courage to try to help others.

I am grateful to God for enriching my life with this experience and for leading me to the right door two years ago. I owe my new life to this team, which has been the miracle and guide in my journey.

Father Peter's memory is filled with stories like mine and with an endless number of his own experiences. For a decade he has been opening that door to so many of us, leading us to a new life of forgiveness, faith, and freedom.

Southport Correctional Facility


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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