Catholic Prisoners' Aid Society, The

Deals with necessitous Catholics on their discharge from prison or police court, and, if necessary, with dependents of prisoners while the latter are in prison; its essential object is reclamation by means of religion. The society came into existence under the auspices of Cardinal Vaughan through the efforts of Canon John Cooney, at that time chaplain at Wandsworth prison. English prison regulations require prisoners on admission to state their religion, and to attend the appropriate prison services; thus a Catholic prisoner attends Mass and is seen, more or less frequently according to the length of his term, by the prison Catholic chaplain, and also by the prison Catholic visitor who takes particulars of the prisoner's case, his prospects on release, and the circumstances of any dependents he may have. After investigation applications are laid before the society's executive; before the prisoner's release a course of action is decided. Material assistance varies according to the prisoner's sex, age, and occupation. Discharged female prisoners may be provided with temporary maintenance in a special home managed by ladies, who find them employment and supply any clothing required; or they may be placed fur longer periods in suitable Convent homes. Cases frequently occur in which the magistrates, instead of sentencing an offender to imprisonment, discharge her on probation, but require her (under penalties) to remain for a time under the friendly supervision of a lady probation officer. Several of the society's lady workers are probation officers. The corresponding duties in regard to male offenders discharged on probation in London are undertaken by the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. For men discharged after a term of imprisonment the society endeavors to find honest employment; meanwhile, if necessary, providing them with board and lodging, clothes, tools, etc. A considerable number are given work on ships, the society having agents at the principal ports. Material assistance, however, is only regarded as a subordinate part of the society's work. Concentrated efforts are made to bring all offenders back to the practise of their religion by bringing in the moral influence of personal interest in their future welfare; the society's voluntary workers visit prisons, the prisoners' homes, interview prospective employers, and escort discharged offenders to their destinations, as well as assist in the administrative work.

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