This article from National Catholic Reporter (NCR) profiles an excellent program in prison that challenges criminal’s minds while introducing them to Catholicism, good idea, good story.

In our book: The Lampstand Prison Ministry: Constructed on Catholic Social Teaching & the History of the Catholic Church, we stressed that the most effective way to reform criminals was intellectually, and Catholicism has the only narrative that can trump that of the criminal/carceral world.

An excerpt from the NCR article.

The only chapter of the International Thomas Merton Society that is located in a prison is at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Shirley, according to the 83-year-old who started it there.

John Collins, who is a member of St. Mary Parish in Shrewsbury and writes columns about the popular Trappist monk for The Catholic Free Press, newspaper of the Worcester diocese, said the chapter is one of 43 in the world.

In January, three prisoners are to have essays published in The Merton Seasonal, a quarterly journal with articles, book reviews and other information of interest to the society’s members.

The prison chapter is an outgrowth of a talk about Merton that Collins gave at the request of Catholics incarcerated there.

Prisoners said they learned about him and other speakers they’ve invited to come and talk to them through The Catholic Free Press and The Pilot, newspaper of the Boston archdiocese, in whose territory the prison is located….

Shortly after ending the St. Mary’s Merton program, Collins said, he received a letter sent to him at the parish. In it Shawn Fisher, a prisoner and secretary for the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel at the Shirley prison, said they’d been reading his Merton columns in The Catholic Free Press and asked him to speak about Merton there, he said.

Speaking of Collins’ program, Deacon Arthur Rogers, a Catholic chaplain at the prison, said: “The men took to it, and he took to it.” He and Collins said about 12 to 20 medium-security prisoners attend the program the third Wednesday of each month.

“What I want to do is a book that will help them in their prayer life, and I wanted to go beyond devotional prayer,” Collins said, explaining why he chose New Seeds of Contemplation. “I wanted them to have an appreciation of quiet, interior prayer, just waiting for the Lord.”

“It challenges the minds,” Rogers said. “Some of these guys are pretty sharp. They like to be challenged.” He said he has never seen anything like this in the prison system.

Retrieved November 24, 2014 from