Commentary: A call to action opposing mandatory minimums for drug crimes

Commentary: A call to action opposing mandatory minimums for drug crimes

May 15, 2017
Written by Velda Love

Velda_Love.jpegMultiple stories have been flooding the media regarding U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session public policy reversal of former President Barack Obama’s policies to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug related crime.

According to Sessions, "Our department’s experience over decades shows these prosecutions can help save lives." However, according to new data released by the federal government, "Research has consistently shown that white people are actually more likely than African-Americans and Hispanics to sell drugs and about as likely to consume them, but they are still arrested and prosecuted less often than people of color. Higher arrest and incarceration rates for African Americans and Latinos are not reflective of increased prevalence of drug use or sales in these communities, but rather of a law enforcement focus on urban areas, on lower-income communities and on communities of color as well as inequitable treatment by the criminal justice system," according to the Drug Policy Alliance, a New York City-based nonprofit that seeks to end the war on drugs."

The United Church of Christ remains a faithful witness and advocate for criminal justice reforms and an end to the disproportionate number of people of color within the prison industrial complex. Justice and Witness Ministries stand solidly on the biblical principle that all humans are equal. We believe restorative justice practices treat those who find themselves involved in criminal activity are what God requires.

As a faith community, we reject the Attorney General’s decision to reinstitute a war on drugs as a cover to disproportionately target people of color, and low income communities further by instructing prosecutors to pursue the strictest charges and sentences in the handling of drug cases.

We encourage all UCC congregations to protest these changes. Protect our most vulnerable communities by using the following resources. Display them within your churches. Educate your congregation about knowing their rights and protections against racial profiling. Teach your community how to respond to police harassment or arrest. Know who your pro bono civil rights attorneys are in your city and state.

"What does the Lord require of you but to do Justice." Micah 6:8a

God is calling us to actively engage in the work of racial justice by eradicating racism, staying current, and collectively strategizing to inform our congregations, community organizations, and concerned citizens when racism and racist policies impacts all lives.

Here are websites to report racist abuses in our nation, local churches and communities:

Know your Constitutional rights
www.aclu.org/know-your-rights/what-do-if-youre-stopped-police-immigration-agents-or-fbi
www.nlg.org/know-your-rights/
www.cliniclegal.org/resources/know-your-rights

Report Acts of Racism, Extremism and Violence
www.splcenter.org/

UCC resources on mass incarceration and criminal justice.

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