Following the United Church of Christ Ecumenical Advocacy Days pre-event – Where Do We Go from Here: A Faith Call to End Mass Incarceration, Justice and Witness Ministries staff enlisted interested UCC members in establishing the UCC Criminal Justice Network to advance the conversation on public policy advocacy related to criminal justice and mass incarceration by maximizing the collective UCC voice at national, state, and local church levels. Network participants, along with JWM staff and UCC Conferences who co-sponsored GS Resolutions on mass incarceration and the New Jim Crow have drafted an implementation to framework that will serve as a vehicle for assisting the United Church of Christ in all its settings to successfully address this issue, seek a just resolution, coordinated engagement and strategic unity.
Together members of the UCC Criminal Justice Network and UCC National Staff collaborated to draft an implementation framwork for addressing our General Synod Resolutions related to Mass Incarceration and the New Jim Crow.
Throughout its history, the witness of the United Church of Christ General Synod has reflected a faithful and prophetic engagement with our calling address injustice in the criminal justice system. The United Church of Christ currently joins its ecumenical and interfaith partners across the nation in mobilizing its members to act and speak out against laws that are not just or fair to all communities they are intended to serve and protect. The United States imprisons more of its own people than any other country in the world with 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons or jails. More than 60% of people incarcerated in U. S. prison and jails and racial and ethnic minorities.
In order to successfully address issues related to criminal justice reform and mass incarceration and to effectively seek a just resolution, Justice and Witness Ministries in collaboration with sponsoring Conferences have drafted an Implementation Framework to assist the UCC in all of its settings to carry out critical work related to criminal justice reform, mass incarceration, racism and racial/ethnic disparities in the system. The successes of recent General Synod resolutions are built on the assumption that the national setting will provide network coordination and national policy advocacy.
Justice and Witness Ministries recognizes that social change is dependent upon conference and local leadership engagement. Therefore, Conferences will be asked to support a church-wide effort by active involvement and support of the national network work through volunteer leaders and financial resources
The Framework includes four focus areas that are essential for mobilizing local congregations in this work:
1. Education for mobilization, advocacy and service
2. Influence state and federal policy issues
3. Direct service ministries
4. Influence and shape public debate
All focus areas include purpose, process and outcome statements. A Communication’s strategy for the overall Framework has also been included. A consensus on the Framework is expected to be reached in late October after a national steering committee is assembled from suggestions and input from Conferences. In November a national coalition of advocates will be convened and work will begin.
The work on this Framework is an outgrowth from the JWM pre-event at Ecumenical Advocacy Days “A Faith Call to End Mass Incarceration,” held in April. Following this successful event, a national Criminal Justice Network was formed. In addition, former General Minister and President Geoffrey Black led several conference call conversations among leaders following the tragic incidents in Ferguson, Baltimore, Cleveland, etc. (“Following Ferguson”). Because many of the same persons are participating in both of these networks, it was proposed that they join together to strengthen the movement. A group of national staff and conference/local church leaders have been working closely together to develop an implementation framework for responding to these two resolutions related to criminal justice reform and their intersection with racism.
For more information on the UCC Criminal Justice Network and the Implementation Framework, please contact Barbara Baylor, MPH, Policy Advocate for Domestic Issues – (202) 543-1527 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.