Written by Minister Jason Carson Wilson
Mass incarceration has made the lives of some neighbors of color miserable. Black men, particularly, have borne the brunt of the New Jim Crow’s effects. Those men could be your father, brother, cousin or friend.
Scholar Michelle Alexander has painted a vivid image of that stark reality.
Our church lifted up her prophetic findings, but also shared our witnesses about the justice system’s injustices. They include General Synod 30 resolutions, Dismantling Discriminatory Systems of Mass Incarceration in the United States and Dismantling the New Jim Crow.
Sacred texts, including Hebrews 13:3, compels us to emphasize JUSTICE in criminal justice.
Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.
Remembering those in prison and tortured by injustice drives UCC advocates to help dismantle the New Jim Crow. Those efforts include lobbying for proposed criminal justice reform, including the Recidivism Risk Reduction Act and Fair Sentencing Act.
Casting ballots for those who support this legislation is how you can emphasize the JUSTICE in criminal justice. It’s an opportunity for “Our Faith” to inform “Our Vote.”
So, choosing our next Congress is just as important as choosing the next President. The 115th Congress could play a vital role in helping curtail mass incarceration by passing federal legislation. Choosing the best representatives to do that work is imperative.
While the Sentencing Reform Act reduces federal mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses, the Recidivism Risk Reduction Act aims to put the prison revolving door out of commission. We’ve worked alongside Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition members and United Church of Christ congregations to advocate for this much-needed legislation.
Hebrews 13:1-2 also speaks to the plight of the othered known as the mass incarcerated.
Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
We have othered those in prison. Our faith and scripture should compel us to show hospitality to strangers, who’ve been unjustly incarcerated. We’re not only possibly entertaining angels--but doing the right thing.
Most of those incarcerated will become our fellow citizens and neighbors again.
Voting is one way you can show hospitality to strangers in prison. Let’s choose representatives who view strangers in prison more like the neighbors they will be rather than enemies.
The ballots we cast determines the future of criminal justice reform.