A new report by the Federal Bureau of Investigations has revealed an increase of violent crime for the year 2015, marking a three-year high after declines in violence in 2013 and 2014. Much of this has been driven by increases in homicides in several of the nation’s urban centers, including Chicago, Houston, and Washington, DC.
What is the proper response for Christians in light of these new crime numbers? In an editorial for the Christian Post, Craig DeRoche, Prison Fellowship’s senior vice president of advocacy and public policy, urges his fellow believers to keep an eye on the long-term goal of building a criminal justice system that is both just and effective, promoting Christian values while acknowledging the divine nature of every human being.
“[W]hen crime and violence affect our communities,” DeRoche says, “it is an opportunity to be guided by our values—not our fears—and create a restorative criminal justice system that honors the image of God in each person.”
Despite the recent uptick in crime, DeRoche notes that crime levels in the United States are near 40-year lows, and that similar spikes in homicide rates in the past have been followed by subsequent declines. Statistics like those in the FBI report, while concerning, should not be used as a reason to dismantle ongoing efforts to reform the criminal justice system.
“Reform based on values and evidence makes us all safer,” DeRoche argues. “A national swing back to the failed policies of the past would only mean greater recidivism, more violence, more victims and a greater waste of human lives.”
Christians “have a calling to bring healing and restoration,” says DeRoche. Such a calling involves reaching out to the victims of crime who feel like the current system does not meet their needs, as well as working to rehabilitate the men and women behind bars. Noting that 95 percent of people behind bars will be released, DeRoche claims that in-prison programming that deals with the root of criminal behavior is key to ending the cycle of crime and incarceration. “Lower recidivism means fewer crimes—and fewer victims,” he says.
“Frightening headlines should turn God’s people not inward, but outward,” DeRoche concludes. Evoking Jesus’ parable of the “good Samaritan,” he suggests that Christians should always be seeking “the good of our neighbors who are wounded on life’s roadside.”
Prison Fellowship’s vision is for a criminal justice system that restores all that have been affected by crime—one that rebuilds both lives and communities. To learn more about our efforts to change the culture and to advance meaningful reforms, sign up to join our network of advocates, so that you can make an impact where you live.