LA County

Emotional Christmas Mass Held for Inmates at Men's Central Jail

A special and emotional Christmas mass was held for inmates at the Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles, which touched on Pope Francis' message of mercy and the need to forgive on Friday.

About 300 inmates attended mass at the chapel inside the jail. They were not shackled. Some came with their rosaries around their necks.

"I feel I have guilt. Because I messed up, I did something wrong and I have to pay for it," Matthew Abplanalp, an LA County Jail inmate, said.

Abplanalp said he was arrested for drug possession before Thanksgiving, and will spend the holidays behind bars.

He got choked up when he talked about his daughter, hoping this Christmas she knows he's trying to change.

"She'll be 18 on May 29," he said.

Inmates read the scriptures and sang along with a volunteer choir from downtown's St. Agatha's church.


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LA archbishop Jose Gomez took time to walk what's called the "rows" inside the jail, to visit with inmates who are housed alone who were not allowed to attend the mass.

"God never tires of forgiving us," Gomez said. "I think some were very emotional, and feeling the love of God."

LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell stood beside the archbishop and explained it's a tough topic considering some of the serious crimes many of the inmates committed. The County sees this annual event as part of their rehabilitation.

"They're going to go back into the communities that they left for the most part, so for us to be able to give them whatever tools we can while they're here, whether it's addressing their faith needs or trying to get them into education, whatever it is to make them leave here in a better condition than they came in," McDonnell said.

Abplanalp said he was trying to make a change starting with himself.

"Today he said it's about giving," Abplanalp said. "It doesn't have to be just one day of the year. And that's what I want to do. I don't want to take anymore, I want to give."  

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