Three Little Birds by Dawn

(Tiago’s note–This is the second in a series of refections by women prisoners in Brazil.  The women have given their permission for this blog post although their names have been changed.  

In this reflection, Dawn from Canada, provides us with a short poem.   Please think about and pray for Dawn and the other women who write these poems and reflections.  Let’s ask Him to provide them with the inner peace and silence they need to stay strong while incarcerated.)


Three Little Birds–A poem by “Dawn”  (Title by Bob Marley)

Is it all for a reason?

The human experience is painful

The world is small and beautiful, big and scary

Full of complex organisms and coincidences

time, love, hurt, memories, Thoughts

How to turn ones head off?

Peace, silence-attainable?

Simply be…



Rethinking Decisions by Angela

(Tiago’s note–After telling the women prisoners I was writing a blog using our stories together, the women asked me if they could contribute.  I was so impressed and excited!  So, this is the first in what I hope to be a series of reflections by mostly foreign, English-speaking women in the Brazilian prison system.

Couple of editing notes.  The women have given their permission for this blog post although their names have been changed.  The words are theirs but I will occasionally edit for security and readability.

Please think about and pray for the women who write these reflections.  Let’s hope it will help them, and more importantly, someone else, to make better decisions.)


Rethinking Decisions by “Angela”  (Title by Tiago)

A person always assumes that when something bad happens in one’s life that nothing can be worse than that…Then one day you make a wrong decision and you end up in a prison.  Well, for me, I made that decision over a year ago and now I am in Brazilian prison for trafficking.

I can tell you one thing.  Whatever anybody ever tells you, it is not worth it.  You are in a place where you have lost all your rights to privacy.  They decide when you wake up, eat, shower, etc.  You have limited contact with your loved ones and it can be a very long time before you have the opportunity again to hear their voices; especially over the festive season.  The emotions for every girl here are very sad because it’s a time for all to be with loved ones…

Luckily for me, I have amazing friends that are always there for me.  And a special thanks to the missioners and Pastoral Carcerária members for putting a smile on our faces every Saturday and for the nice hugs.

The Feel of a Little Freedom (Part 2)

The women at PFC worry about us too.

It was raining so hard that they were concerned we would get soaking wet while making our 5-minute walk back to the small prison-entrance room where we leave our personal belongings, including umbrellas, behind.

So a couple of the women fashioned makeshift rain jackets for us out of plastic garbage bags.  They even made a small hood for Ann.

Their handiwork can be seen on Marilyn, Ann, and me after we left the prison and retrieved our umbrellas.

Thanks ladies!

The Feel of a Little Freedom


Probably like you, its harder for me to see when its dark.  That is when I knew the rain was coming. The usually bright blue sky overhead the open prison courtyard at PFC was turning dark gray and it was getting harder for me to see across to the other side.  However, the women outside sitting in the courtyard were not worried.  They would have loved to remain in the courtyard, to feel the rain drops on their face.  But they knew it was just a matter of time before the prison guards would call them inside.  No fun allowed here.

As I looked up at the sky again, the guards made their call and we were ushered inside to the large open, cold, concrete interior concrete room where the girls stay when the weather is bad.  It is as gray inside that room as the sky was outside that afternoon, grayer even.

It started pouring down hard while we were in that room and I continued to talk with the girls;  Wendy, Dina, Anelda, Madeline, Petra, Kristy-Lee, Nenita.  The lightning lit and thunder clapped and it rained like I’ve never seen it rain before in São Paulo.  It was raining so hard, drops came swirling in from the high open windows of the gray room.  It was very misty in the room and it felt like being on a ship when the ocean spray hits while you stand on the deck.

It was then that I noticed Miroslava standing on the concrete bench next to the open window.  The bench was just high enough for her to stand on and allow her to look outside and watch the thunderstorm.  She stood there just watching, and smiling.  Feeling the rain mist on her, gettting wetter but not caring.  For Miroslava, I imagined it felt a little like the freedom that is denied to her and the other women. Never free to play in the rain.  No guard to tell you to come inside, like our Moms did when we were young.  Maybe she felt like a child again, playing in the rain, getting wet, getting dirty; not caring, forgetting everything else for just a couple of minutes.

So, next time you feel the cold mist of a hard rain on your face, say a little prayer for the girls in PFC.  Please ask God to give back the women of PFC the choice of playing in the rain if they want.

MKLM Prison Video

Prison Video

Some you may have heard about the recent prison riots in North Brazil that left more than 100 prisoners dead. Its a very tragic lesson about the overcrowding and lack of quality human contact in the prisons here.

Maryknoll Lay Missioners (MKLM) and the Pastoral Carcerária are trying to prevent these disturbing events from happening. Please watch the short video created by MKLM Brazil and taken from a TV Aparecida documentary that highlights just some of the work we do together. 

You can help us in two ways. First, please watch the video in the link above.  Second, you can support Marilyn and me in our mission by praying and supporting MKLM through financial donations. Of every dollar you contribute, 50% will go to our ministry account which will buy reading materials, English Language teaching supplies, Bibles, calendars, and other items for our friends in the prisons. The other 50% will go directly to supporting us in our Mission. To consider a contribution please hit this link.…/MaryknollLayMis…/kottfamily.html

Thanks so much for all your support that we have received so far in our first year in mission!


MKLM and Pastoral Carcerária: Witnesses and Fans In Brazil’s Prisons

Marilyn's Maryknoll Blog

You may have heard in the news of a prison riot in northern Brazil on January 2. More than 60 prisoners died, and several of the guards were held hostage for over seventeen hours. In the aftermath, authorities are highlighting overcrowding and gang activities as the reason for the riots.

You may also know that Jim & I, and most of the Maryknoll Lay Missioners in Brazil, work in the prisons here. We’re part of the Brazilian Catholic bishops’ prison ministry team, called Pastoral Carcerária. As part of this team, Maryknoll Lay Missioners provide pastoral care and help with legal processes. Our members also give classes in subjects to include parenting, Restorative Justice, theater, and even English. Jim & I are there primarily to make sure that the prisoners have access to Catholic worship resources, since the prisons do not have chaplains. But our team is also there to provide witness, that the…

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Washing the Cats


Unsolicited, he proudly explained to me, “We only have black cats in this prison.”   As we both looked around I realized he was right.  All I could see were black cats.  He did not stay long enough to explain why they only had black cats and when I searched for him again, he was gone.  He had disappeared into a sea of male prisoners dressed in their light brown pants and white t-shirts wandering aimlessly in the courtyard of Franco da Rocha prison just north of São Paulo, Brazil….always shaking my hand as they passed by me.

It was my first trip to this prison and I was in the middle of the large rectangular prison courtyard, about half the size of a football field and surrounded on two sides by two levels of prison cells, on another side by a large blank cement wall and the fourth, the cellblock entrance.  Above the hot concrete courtyard floor was only the sun, blue sky and a thin wire net covering the entire area.

Everywhere I looked there was something interesting happening…at least interesting to me.  There was a group of prisoners walking in a large circle for their daily exercise, there was a group sitting in a circle around another prisoner with an old guitar singing, there was an individual walking around with several cartons of cigarettes.  But mostly, the 1000 or so men were just standing around talking to each other.

As I searched for the next victim of my broken Portuguese, a rosary, and a prayer card, I noticed the most interesting thing yet.  There were several groups of about 10 or so men standing around white plastic buckets washing the black cats.  Now not being a cat person, I never knew that cats needed to be washed; especially in the way they were being washed.

This cat washing procedure took at least five men to perform.  There were three men holding the cats by the scruff of the neck, the front paws, and the back paws as they dunked the cat into the white plastic bucket filled with soapy water.  One man would then pour some sort of green dish-washing liquid soap on the cat.  And the last man would scrub and lather up the the cat after the dunking.  There were at least five other men standing around in a circle while they watched their sport of cat-washing.

As I moved in closer to the action, I learned something new about cats; they really don’t like to be cleaned using this particular washing method.  This angry black cat was hissing and baring its fangs at the prisoner holding its neck…and the prisoner was holding on for dear life…the only one of the group not giggling!  The cat washing lasted about ten minutes–squirt, scrub, dunk and then again squirt, scrub, dunk.  The whole time the cat hissing and baring its teeth at the neck holder.

Finally, after the cat was cleaned, rinsed and looking like something out of a Stephan King horror movie, the men counted to three and let go of the cat all at once.  The cat darted away into a corner of the courtyard where it could clean itself in a way it was accustomed too and dry off in the hot Brazilian sun.  The men then began looking around for another cat to wash.

Because there were several groups of cat-washers spread out in the courtyard, I never quite figured out if this was just an occasional cat washing day or this was something they did more regularly to pass the time of dreadfully boring prison life.  But i sensed it was something more than entertainment for the men.  It seemed like these men felt the need to take care of another living being even if it meant only washing the black cats; their black cats.  Most of the men were probably fathers and missed the chance to care for their children and families.  In some peculiar way, I sensed the cat washing provided them with that feeling again.

So next time your cat needs washing, please remember and pray for the men of Franco da Rocha prison and their human desire to take care of another living creature.  Pray that they can finish their sentences in a quick and just way before returning to their children and families to take care of them instead of the black cats.

Thanks for listening… Abraços, Tiago