Pope Francis' comments on prisons lead to rally in downtown LA

Leanne Suter Image
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Pope Francis' comments on prisons lead to demonstration in downtown LA
The pope's comments on prisons during his visit to the United States led to a demonstration against the prison system Tuesday night in downtown Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A prayer vigil for dignity and justice was held outside the Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday night, as different faiths joined forces following Pope Francis' message on mass incarceration and racial injustice.

"Folks are taking the next step, so they have a moment of reflection after hearing his words, and now they're taking action," said Polo Morales, an organizer. "This is a huge turnout today in front of the Men's Central Jail to say enough is enough; let's find better solutions."

"We want to unite like the pope said all the communities get together to support each other, unite with each other," said Olga Perez of Boyle Heights.

Miguel Lugo of Long Beach spent 18 years behind bars for attempted murder. Freed in December, the former gang member says the system sets ex-cons up for failure, releasing them without any training or assistance.

"Being out here, there's times that I get overwhelmed, real overwhelmed, and the easy choice to do is to go back to what I know," said Lugo.

Just 18 when he went to prison, Lugo says he wasn't prepared for how much the world had changed when he got out. Homeboy Industries gave him the second chance he says every convict deserves.

"I got my life together," said Lugo. "I'm trying to get into school. I'm trying to get my GED. All this sometimes feels like a dream."

Those gathered outside the jail, several hundred strong, many former inmates or with family members behind bars, all united in their faith and compassion, called for change.

"I'm here so I could talk for the people that can't talk, for the people that are behind these walls that cannot come out here and say 'this is all wrong,'" said Lugo.

Similar rallies were held in 12 cities across the country.