CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Inmates to be empowered by alternative therapies

HONG KONG (SE): Correctional services chaplains met at St. Margaret’s Church, Happy Valley, on May 4 to look at how alternative therapies can help prison inmates and former inmates rebuild their lives.
Around 100 people, including Catholic and Protestant chaplains, as well as volunteers from religious and other organisations attended the meeting. 
At the start of the meeting, Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung said that inmates may feel abandoned, forgotten and hopeless. He encouraged chaplains, pastoral workers and volunteers to bring forgiveness, love and hope to them. He reminded them that it is also necessary to help former inmates to change their old lifestyles and rebuild closer relationships with people.
Bishop Yeung said the mercy of God, his greatest gift, can be seen in the life of the inmates. He said that as offenders serve their sentences because justice must be upheld, it is necessary to help them turn over a new leaf as well.
Lam Kwok-leung, commissioner of the Correctional Services Department, spoke of his concerns about inmates with special needs, such as repeat offenders and those with physical and psychological stress, which make it necessary for the department to seek the support of religious organisations whom he for their services. 
He said that there are nearly 100 chaplains at present who visited people in custody over 1,700 times last year.
Lam said the department has adopted alternative therapies, such as meditation and sports, to help inmates, and adventure training has been offered to teenagers for some years now, while meditation sessions have recently started up for rehabilitating former drug users. He believes that cooperation with related organisations will bring a synergistic effect in the future. 
Ng Kwok-chuen, chairperson of Sports Change Life Foundation, said sport is a good way to build up trust with other people. He said he hopes he will have a chance to help inmates in the future.
Ng is a triathlon lover and he said  the level of stamina is not a hindrance to doing any sports. He said even elderly people can join an adjusted triathlon if they wish. 
Lau Yau-kuen, an adventure training instructor, said the activity can help teenagers mature and give them a sense of achievement.
Reverend Edwin Ng Wing-hung, a prison chaplain, said meditation is a good alternative therapy that helps inmates to calm down the chaos in their minds. Sports can also direct their attention in a positive way.
Father John Wotherspoon stressed that it is better to prevent crime so he often encourages inmates to tell their countrymen not to get involved in drug trafficking. He also urged people in Hong Kong to have compassion for the situations of former inmates.
Daniel Cheung Yun-on, honourary chief executive officer of the Lay Prison Evangelical Organisation, shared his experience in leading art therapy workshops saying that art can help inmates give expression to their feelings and calm their minds.
Cheung exhibited the colourful artwork of teenaged inmates during the conference. He explained that participants do not need to have any arts skills as the workshop is only meant to help them express themselves, however they can also ask for help. 
Meditating on Bible verses is sometimes introduced to help them see the beauty of creation as well as the beauty of their own lives.
Chow Suet-yan, a music therapy instructor, said music can help people who find it hard to express themselves to release their feelings. She has been leading workshops for the marginalised such as the ex-mental health patients as well as prison inmates. 
There are 97 prison chaplains from different Christian denominations at present. Volunteers from the Lay Prison Evangelical Organisation and other Protestant prison visitation groups pay regular visits to inmates as well. Believers or not, they can all receive religious services through the chaplains and religious organisations. 
The Lay Prison Evangelical Organisation and the St. Peter’s Revival Association is also lending support to former inmates to make it easier for them to adjust to their new lives. 

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