Criminal justice

As the world’s leader in incarceration, the U.S. continues to operate a system of injustice. The U.S. criminal justice system fails to lower crime, rehabilitate and deliver “justice.” Over-incarceration persists with 2.2 million Americans filling jails and prisons.

People of color are targeted by the criminal justice system, constituting more than 60 percent of those incarcerated. A civil rights issue is at stake when one in three African-American men are expected to go to jail in their lifetimes compared to one in 14 white men.

Many pieces of legislation have been introduced to reverse the impact of mass incarceration by removing mandatory minimum sentences, reducing drug-related sentences and improving prison conditions. In particular, we support the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which aims to address injustices in sentencing. But despite bipartisan support for reforms, other issues have taken priority in Congress.

As a country, we have yet to rid ourselves of the “tough on crime” rhetoric. In May, Attorney General Sessions directed federal prosecutors to pursue harsh sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. In the past, this approach led to the over-incarceration of people of color.

Few are willing to address the root causes of drug crimes in low-income communities, and the rate of recidivism after people leave prisons and jails is high.

To achieve meaningful reforms, this issue must take on a sense of urgency for Christians and other advocates. Foundational transformation needs to occur to make sure all people encounter just and equal systems when laws and relationships are broken. –Cherelle M. Dessus

Create a prisoner care kit

MCC Central States and MCC East Coast distribute “care kits” to people who are in prison. Encourage your congregation to collect items for these kits, and use this as an opportunity to help others learn about our country’s system of mass incarceration. Learn more here.