You can read the full story about the contest on mcc.org. Below are excerpts from the winning essays.
Excerpts from the overall winner, Jared Knepper, a senior at Shalom Christian Academy in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania:
Through the excessive pursuit of drugs and the addition of over 1,400 new federal laws in approximately 25 years (Fasman), incarceration has become increasingly visible as a means of exorbitant punishment, exploitation, and racial inequality throughout layers of American society.
To right the wrongs of America’s incarceration disaster, the criminal justice system must halt and undergo massive reformation. Nonviolent offenders must be removed from prisons and instead be placed in alternative forms of correction, outlets such as rehabilitative programs and community service (“End Mass”). Sentence lengths must experience considerable decrease, and more opportunities for rehabilitation must be offered within prisons, establishing focus upon change and recovery rather than upon punishment (“End Mass”). Life following release from prison, equally vital to behavioral reform as the time spent within correctional facilities, cannot be so inhibited by the “barriers” that so harshly separate ex-felons from privilege and opportunity to refocus their lives.
…let us continue to alleviate the pains of injustice that surround us by continually offering forgiveness and exerting ourselves to share in the pains of our fellow humans as Christ as unceasingly modeled for us.
Excerpts from the essays awarded honorable mention (no order):
Isaac Brenneman: Bethany Christian Schools – Goshen, Indiana
Gang-related violence is one of the root causes of the increase in migration to the United States…A lack of jobs is another cause for the increase…With our Christian and Anabaptist values in mind, our response needs to be hospitable and welcoming towards these immigrants because as children of God, we are called to help those in need. One way we can respond is by supporting more organizations that help provide assistance and services to these immigrants.
Brooklyn Ries: Freeman Academy – Freeman, South Dakota
Statistics show that the United States has the most incarcerated people in the world. We have 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 5% of the world’s population…Where did our forgiveness and humanity go? Matthew 6:14 says, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you (NIV).” Forgiveness does not mean that they will not serve time. On the contrary, they still need to be held accountable for what they did, but…A lot of people are being put away due to laws requiring a minimum sentence…We need to allow inmates connections to the world so they do not feel so alone, and so that when they are released, it is not such a shock to them.
Kyle Snyder: Bethany Christian Schools – Goshen, Indiana
Federal and state prisons, however, use retributive justice as the main focus for rehabilitating prisoners. This is perhaps one of the worst methods for effectively reducing recidivism within prisoners…One alternative is restorative justice, which deals with the criminal accepting their prosecution and helping to find a feasible solution which both helps the prisoner realize the problem, and and finds a mutually acceptable solution that is fair…Retributive and restorative justice mainly differ because of the interaction the victim and the prisoner have in deciding the punishment.