Pope Francis holds a special Mass for prisoners: "We can all make mistakes"

Pope Francis held a special Jubilee Mass for prisoners in St. Peter’s Basilica on November 6, telling them that all people “have made mistakes,” urging them to never give up hope in God’s mercy. Pope Francis told them that, “today we celebrate the Jubilee of Mercy for you and with you, our brothers and sisters who are imprisoned and hope must never falter.”

Pope Francis said in his homily.

“Sometimes, a certain hypocrisy leads to people considering you only as wrongdoers, for whom prison is the sole answer. We don’t think about the possibility that people can change their lives. We put little trust in rehabilitation … into society. But in this way we forget that we are all sinners and often, without being aware of it, we too are prisoners.”

Pope Francis has made it a mission of his papacy to encourage greater compassion for the most vulnerable – the poor, the sick, the elderly, migrants and prisoners. He also urged governments to consider granting amnesty to prisoners, to find alternatives to incarceration and, at the very least, to abolish the death penalty

The end of the Year of Mercy on November 20th – but not mercy’s end …


OBK Prison Ministry and Criminal Justice - November Progress Report

  • East St. Louis Planning Commission (October 19, 2016)
  •  Introductory Remarks by Fr. Reuter
  • East St. Louis Planning Commission (October 26, 2016)
  • Closing Remarks by Hon. Milton Wharton
  • Concluding the Year of Mercy (November 6, 2016)
  • Remarks by Fr. Reuter
  • National Catholic Prison Ministry Conference (November 10-11, 2016)
  • “Concluding the Year of Mercy Behind Bars”
  • Presentation by Fr. Reuter on National Prison Ministry Organizations
  • Presentation on Prison Ministry – Diocese of Rockford, Illinois
  • “The Light of Christ Shines through the Dark Night of Prison”
  • Letter from Apostolic Nunciature United States of America (Sept. 12, 2016)

OBK Returning Citizens HOME - October Progress Report

OBK met with the City of East St. Louis Planning Commission on October 19 and October 26 for a complete review of the project to establish a returning citizen’s home in the ESL community. The Board of Directors made the presentation and answered a number of questions from the members.

The City of East St. Louis Planning Commission approved the development plan on October 26 to build and operate a supervised housing program for adult males released from prison and on parole. The plan as presented detailed the security measures and monitoring procedures that would be in-place for the residents. The plan would include a green area to grow their own produce and provide food for community food pantries.

Our Brothers’ Keepers is seeking approval to proceed and assistance from the City of East St. Louis to find an acceptable site. A motion was made by Commissioner Ronald Davis, seconded by Vice Chairwoman Dona Bullock to recommend to the City Council to approve the concept and assist with the location of an acceptable site. All Commissioners present voted to approve the motion. Motion carried. The Planning Commission approval document was sent to Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks, City Manager Courtney Logan, Council members Pro Tem Robert Eastern III, Latoya Greenwood, Roy Mosley and June Hamilton-Dean.

Prior to the Planning Commission meeting on October 19, Tina Phillips, Jesse Lofton and Jabari Conrad traveled to Marion, IL (October 17) to visit one of five returning citizens homes operated by LSSI-Family and Prisoner Ministry (Mike Davis, LSSI Ex. Dir., and OBK Board of Directors member). These homes are the model for how the OBK home would operate. The ESL group met with a “returning citizen” and was able to get a first-hand look at how the supportive housing and employment skills school has helped him to become a stable resident of the community. The ESL group also toured the LSSI offices and visited the computer classroom where the Employment Skill School (ESS) is taught to the returning citizens.

The Employment Skill School is a 40 day curriculum-based program designed especially for returning citizens who are seeking employment. The program includes employment readiness assessment and developing workplace skills and behaviors. The school also assists in career development services with periodic career counseling services.

In support of the OBK presentation to the Planning Commission and later the ESL City Council the following documentation was included that covered areas related to security measures and monitoring procedures that would be in-place for the residents.

  • Mission of Permanent Supportive Resident Program
  • Residence Operations Handbook – Programs and Rules
  • Resident Mandatory Programs
  • How OBK Came To Be – Origin and Development

OBK Returning Citizens HOME - September Progress Report

OBK is meeting with the ESL Planning group that includes Tina Phillips (TIF/Finance) and Jacqueline Riley (liaison to Planning Committee). Twelve copies of the OBK presentation for the Planning Commission were given to Ms. Phillips for review and forwarded to Ms. Riley for distribution to the members.
OBK is scheduled to meet with the Planning Commission on October 19 and October 26 for review of the project. Members include: Chairwoman Leverne Backstrom, Vice Chairwoman Donna Bullock, Secretary William Mixon, Commissioners: Ronald Davis, Jacqueline Perkins, Lorenzo Savage, Dorothy Joshway and Joyce Williams.
The OBK presentation to the Planning Commission includes the following:
- Faith-based Agencies Serving the East St. Louis Community
- Letters of Support for a Reentry Home
- Personal Testimony from a Returning Citizen

OBK Returning Citizens HOME - August Progress Report

The OBK Board of Directors reviewed and revised the outline for the presentation to the East St. Louis Planning Commission. The approved outline includes the following:
⦁ Introduction to OBK Board, Advisory Board & Guests
⦁ Mission Statement and Detailed Expansion of Mission Statement
⦁ Our Request of the Planning Commission
⦁ Executive Summary
⦁ Faith-based Agencies Serving the East St. Louis Community
⦁ Letters of Support for a Reentry Home
⦁ Personal Testimony for a Returning Citizen
⦁ Conceptual Building Plan
⦁ Resident’s Application Form
⦁ Residence Operations Handbook
⦁ How OBK Came to Be – Origin and Development

The presentation details follow:
- Detailed Expansion of OBK Mission Statement
- OBK Request of the ESL Planning Commission
- OBK Executive Summary to ESL Planning Commission