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August 6, 2015

Is it now ungodly to oppose significant sentencing and prison reform?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this notable recent Crux commentary authored by Jacob Lupfer headlined "There’s a truly religious consensus on prison reform." Here are excerpts:

In an era when most faith groups’ political priorities align predictably with the two major parties, it is refreshing to behold a truly diverse religious consensus on an issue....

The budget-busting prison-industrial complex was politically popular for a time, but in the past decade the pendulum has begun swinging the other way.  Harsh sentences, particularly for nonviolent drug offenders, created unsustainable fiscal pressures.  States simply cannot afford to house more prisoners and pay the salaries and benefits of employees to supervise and care for them.

Already, states are taking steps to spend less on “corrections.”  Fiscal conservatives now view prisons as overly expensive, hugely inefficient, bloated bureaucracies.  Yet Christians and other people of faith see problems, too.

America’s denominations and faith organizations are calling for reform.  Our vast criminal justice system emphasizes punishment over rehabilitation, while our faith traditions preach redemption.  Citing Isaiah 61, Jesus announced that his gospel would include “release for the captives” (Luke 4:18).  It seems wrong for a Christian conscience to support needless incarceration.

Catholics were early leaders in promoting restorative justice, the idea that communities must help ex-offenders re-enter society in healthy and productive ways.  The US Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a major pastoral statement in 2000 that placed criminal justice issues in the context of social ills, including family breakdown, violence, racial disparities and the perverse incentives of for-profit prisons.

Once a powerhouse in ecumenical Christian political influence, the National Council of Churches has reinvented itself as a smaller, more focused agency. Yet it has made mass incarceration its top advocacy priority.  NCC President Jim Winkler has a provocative idea. “If churches want to see revival,” he told me last year, “they should pick up released prisoners and help reintegrate them into their communities.” Criminal justice reform is not just an issue. It is essential to the gospel: Redeemed sinners proclaiming mercy in the name of Jesus Christ....

Leaders from Catholic, mainline, and black Protestant traditions have been sounding this refrain for years. But the growing consensus among white evangelicals and Republican officeholders may finally make sentencing reform an urgent and truly bipartisan imperative.  The National Association of Evangelicals, known to be more active on non-sex-related issues than other religious conservatives, has spoken strongly of the need for criminal justice reform....

Until recently, disparate groups have worked on the issue largely independently.  That is changing.  In 2014, Congress appointed a committee to study the feasibility of reform among federal prison populations, whose growth threatens other federal law enforcement and funding priorities. The committee is called the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections.  Earlier this year, the task force sought input from faith leaders and saw unprecedented agreement across traditions and enthusiastic support for reform....

Sentencing and prison policy is more easily seen as a boring bureaucratic issue. Even though millions are incarcerated, most Americans know zero or one person in prison. Yet faith communities are adding urgency to the imperative for prison and sentencing reform, even as they remain divided on the death penalty (for now).

In the end, fiscal constraints will force changes in prisons and sentencing if moral concerns do not.  It seems better to make these changes out of a warm-hearted, merciful impulse than through cold fiscal realities.  The faith community can credibly speak with one voice on criminal justice reform, and that voice must be heard.

August 6, 2015 at 10:03 AM | Permalink


"I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

I gather "visiting" isn't the only thing that was required either. Bad policy that leads to much pain and suffering is "ungodly" in the views of various religions. Not only "now" either.

Posted by: Joe | Aug 6, 2015 10:40:36 AM

God spulled backwards is Dog. The Dog Faith Based Community is represented by the 8th Day Dog Adventists. We are a religion which believes that God Put Dog On Earth On The 8th Day To Give Guidance To Mankind. We advised Ronald Reagan when he went ahead and told Mister Gorbachov to Tear Down That Wall. We advise Congress now to makes some changes so as to reduce the number of inmates in the prisons and asylums. We believe in deportation for all non citizens convicted of a felony. We believe in the end of Mass Incarcerations in the Catholic churches. The great masses can do better.

Posted by: Liberty1st | Aug 6, 2015 1:19:51 PM


The Bible has zero tolerance for crime. The middle East was a very low crime jurisdiction.

These churches roasted anyone expressing the slightest dissent from their bizarre and sicko doctrines.

The lawyer has adopted the methodology, and the business plan of the Inquisition. And as the Inquisition 1.0 set back intellectual progress by hundreds of years, so does the Inquisition 2.0, with the lawyers now as the Dominican friars were. These ran roughshod over Europe until French patriots decapitated them by the thousands and expelled even more of these religionists with their alien ideas back to their alien lands.

If the Church wants to advocate for the false piety of the filthy lawyer internal traitor, it should get the same as what is coming to the filthy, internal traitor lawyer hierarchy. Arrest. An hour's fair trial. And summary execution.

To deter.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 6, 2015 5:50:24 PM

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