On May 25, mere steps from the Supreme Court Building in Washington, DC, Prison Fellowship announced the launch of the Faith and Justice Fellowship. The new bipartisan collaboration brings together a disparate group of policy makers from various faith traditions, united in a desire to promote restorative values in the criminal justice system.
Utah Senator Mike Lee and Representative Randy Hultgren from Illinois joined Prison Fellowship Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Public Policy Craig DeRoche in introducing the Fellowship, which includes members from both houses of Congress, state legislators, and governors from across the country.
“The Fellowship is a bipartisan body motivated by their respective faith, and pledges to advance restorative criminal justice reforms and to focus America’s national dialogue on the value and dignity of human life,” DeRoche told those attending the event. “Members of the Faith and Justice Fellowship come together this morning to recognize that no man or woman is beyond redemption. These individuals are committed to working for policies to bring hope and wholeness to those impacted by crime and incarceration. ”
In addition to Senator Lee and Representative Hultgren, founding members include U.S. senators Richard Burr (North Carolina), Thom Tillis (North Carolina), and John Cornyn (Texas); and House members Danny Davis (Illinois), Trent Franks (Arizona), Mark Walker (North Carolina), Mike Bishop (Michigan), and Mia Love (Utah). State officials who are Fellowship members include Kansas Governor Sam Brownback; Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley; state senators Cam Ward (Alabama), John Proos (Michigan), and Konni Burton (Texas); and state representatives Matt Krause (Texas), Rob Hutton (Wisconsin), and Dave LaRock (Virginia).
“This is really an opportunity,” Wisconsin State Representative Hutton told local media on a later conference call to promote the Fellowship. “… It’s never too late to turn a life around, there is no person beyond redemption, and while the cost of the penalties for the commission of the crime must be paid, that gives us an intervention opportunity.
“If you look at this as an opportunity to make today’s problems tomorrows success stories,” Hutton added, “then we are really going to be able to build stronger futures that don’t leave people behind.”
As the main convener for the Faith and Justice Fellowship, Prison Fellowship will provide members with research and updates on criminal justice legislative trends, hosting webinars on criminal justice issues, and holding events and prison program tours that will give the members an opportunity to see the impact of crime and incarceration first-hand, better equipping them to make informed decisions on related legislation.
“This is important work,” Representative Hultgren said. “It really does bring us together. It gives a chance for Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate, liberals and conservatives to say, ‘people matter, lives matter, families matter, and this is an important thing for us to do.’ And I’m also grateful for the cooperation we have with states and state leaders.
“As Proverbs talks about, iron sharpens iron,” he concluded. “As we come together, with differences and different ideas and different backgrounds, we can become better tools for good.”