The poor frequently end up in prison. They are people in condition of social and economic need, “on the street” or with serious personal difficulties. They are immigrants, drug addicts, alcoholics, AIDS victims. Friendship with these brothers and sisters has led some members of the Community to visit the prisons in Italy and other countries around the world including Africa and Latin America. Through these friendships, the prison, a closed and unknown world, has become a familiar place, regularly frequented by many of the Sant’Egidio Community.
Thanks to the Community, several hundreds of those sentenced to death correspond with friends from all over the world. These are prisoners mainly in the United States, but also in other countries such as Trinidad, Tobago, Cameroun, Zambia, or Russia where the death penalty sentence, when abolished, became life imprisonment.
The evangelical foundation: Jesus Himself identifies in the prisoner: “I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in, naked and you dressed me, sick and you visited me, imprisoned and you came to visit me.” (Matt 25,35-36).
Jesus neither judged nor condemns as the tribunals of our civil society do. He died between two thieves, not between two unjustly condemned innocent men, and to one of the two He said: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Lk 23,43) Jesus teaches that we must neither judge nor condemn. “Do not judge so that you may not be judged.” (Matt 7,1)