“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” Luke 4:18-19
The United States is the world's leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation's prisons or jails -- a 500% increase over the past thirty years.These trends have resulted in prison overcrowding and state governments being overwhelmed by the burden of funding a rapidly expanding penal system, despite increasing evidence that large-scale incarceration is not the most effective means of achieving public safety.
More than 60% of the people now in prison are racial and ethnic minorities. For black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison, jail or in probation system on any given day. These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the "war on drugs," in which two-thirds of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color.
LEAMNJ urges our government to
End the school to prison pipeline, and support treatment in lieu of prison for those suffering from addiction.
Reform the practice of solitary confinement with in our prisons and jails.
Advocate for funding of re-entry programs that promote health and economic security of all persons as they are released from confinement.
We encourage congregations and clergy to volunteer with the NJ Dept. of Corrections, providing pastoral care and worship with those incarcerated. Additionally, we encourage congregations and clergy to assistance with those returning from incarceration.
WHAT DOES THE ELCA SAY?
“The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) affirms the fundamental principles of the U.S. criminal justice system such as due process of law and the presumption of legal innocence. Yet, this church hears people’s cries that reflect the current system’s serious deficiencies. Drawing from the biblical witness to God’s wondrously rich forms of love and justice, we are compelled by a “holy yearning” to address the need for a change in public mindset and for dramatic reforms in policies and practices. This statement calls upon Christians to strengthen or take up ministries of compassion and justice. Drawing on evidence and data, it affirms some current efforts at improving the system while identifying numerous other reforms that urgently need implementation.” (The Church and Criminal Justice, "Hearing the Cries")
WHAT DOES THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH SAY?
The Episcopal Church in Convention expressed its grave concern for those incarcerated by passing Resolution Number: 2012- A077. Entitled "Develop a Model Prisoner Ministry":
Resolved, That the 77th General Convention commit to the Baptismal vow to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being;
and be it further Resolved, That justice must be done for victims and offenders alike;
and be it further Resolved, That The Episcopal Church is firmly committed to a system of justice that seeks to provide prisoners with assistance both before and after their release, including alternatives to prison where appropriate, and programs in prison offering offenders the chance to learn job skills and complete education;
and be it further Resolved, That The Episcopal Church seek to address the concern of prison culture in our society today;
and be it further Resolved, That The Episcopal Church develops a social statement on prison reform;
and be it further Resolved, That The Episcopal Church commits funds to develop and implement a model program in partnership with the Office of Black Ministries and the program officer of Social and Economic Justice;
and be it further Resolved, That The Episcopal Church recognize and express its gratitude to the many ministries of the church, including those of prison chaplains, volunteers, parishes and dioceses that work to support prisoners and their families. (General Convention, Journal of the General Convention of...The Episcopal Church, Indianapolis, 2012 (New York: General Convention, 2012), pp. 697-698.)