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The Pope’s prison visit in Philly: What his visit to Curran-Fromhold will be like

Want to have the chance to sit down and pray with the Pope? Just strategically time your next crime.

No seriously, don’t do that. But Pope Francis will sit down at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Holmesburg in September with inmates and their families to meet with them, pray and discuss life as a prisoner — and life as the family member of one.

“It will primarily be an interaction between him and the inmates at Curran-Fromhold,” Commissioner of Prisons Lou Giorla said. “We’ll select a group and their families, and it will just be a friendly interaction.”

The Pope won’t be touring the 100-year-old House of Correction that’s dilapidated and falling apart, but will instead be at the newer, nicer Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility which houses about 2,800 male offenders in maximum security. It’s also where incoming inmates go for the intake process.

Giorla said the prison hasn’t yet selected which inmates with meet with the Pontiff when he swings by the prison just before his mass on the Parkway, because Curran-Fromhold is home to transient inmates, usually while they’re awaiting trial. He did say the prison will aim to set up both male and female inmates to speak with the Pope.

The commissioner added that the Vatican had expressed interest in bringing the Pope to the facility — not the other way around. Francis’ concern for prisoners across the world has been well-documented, and the Pope has visited a number of other prisons across the planet in his advocacy.

Pope Francis has stood up for inmate rights by calling for an end to the death penalty and claiming prison systems across the world are “overstepping boundaries, mistreating inmates, and failing to recognize the sanctity of human life.” He’s also said that life sentences are basically a “hidden death penalty,” and wants the world to follow the Vatican’s lead by removing life sentences from their criminal codes and laws.

Earlier this month, the Pope visited a notorious, high-security prison in Bolivia during his trip to South America, telling inmates there that he “could not leave Bolivia without seeing” them, and equating maximum security prisons to forms of torture.

In the past, Pope Francis has also washed the feet of inmates in Rome just prior to Easter and has personally responded to letters from more than 500 inmates who were jailed as juveniles.

Security at Curran-Fromhold will be a concern. Giorla said the jail will be on lock-down while the Pope’s there, but everything else security-wise is being controlled by the Secret Service.

“Overall preparations are phenomenal,” Giorla said, adding that the prison system is working with a number of state and federal partners. “We have a small part in that.”

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