Heather Rice-Minus, director of government affairs at Prison Fellowship®, joined Values & Capitalism's Meredith Schultz to discuss the core principles of restorative criminal justice reform and how Christians should act to advance it. Justice reform is a bipartisan issue in which the Church needs to be a partner and leader.
A BIPARTISAN EFFORT
"As a result of our over-criminalization of America, [we all] have been touched by this issue in some way," Rice-Minus explains. "Budget crunches across the states have forced legislators to [question], 'Are we really getting a return on investment for the people we incarcerate? Are these sentences not only disproportionate but ineffective?'"
In the end, America's criminal justice reform is a bipartisan effort. "We're really here for the same reasons," Rice-Minus says. "We may express them differently, but we have a shared value of seeing people restored."
WHAT DOES JUSTICE REFORM LOOK LIKE?
Justice reform supports accountability. "It's not a matter of whether we should punish for criminal acts, but how do we do that?" says Rice-Minus.
The goal of justice that restores is to validate victims and hold accountable those responsible for crime, while giving opportunities for those responsible to earn back the public's trust and be able to re-integrate within society.
HOW CAN THE CHURCH ENGAGE?
In addition to the work that Prison Fellowship does with prisoners and their families—preparing prisoners for reentry, teaching Bible-based life-skills classes, servings as mentors, and more—we also want to encourage the Church to play a leading role in serving the victims of crime.
"Nowadays there are resources available to victims through the government, but sometimes that doesn't cut it," Rice-Minus explains. "It's important for us as the Church to be on the alert for people who share with us that they have been a victim of crime, and be on the alert for people who might not be ready to say that they're a victim."
Jesus' Parable of the Good Samaritan should be our model, Rice-Minus adds. "We need to be there just like the Good Samaritan for [victims'] physical needs, their financial needs; and we need to be there for their emotional needs. One of the most important things we can do for victims is to validate their experiences. Tell them this is not okay that this happened to you."
Why help prisoners? Because no one is beyond hope and redemption. At Prison Fellowship, we believe that every life has value and dignity.
For more than 40 years, Prison Fellowship has been going into correctional facilities, sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with those behind bars, and offering the hope of true transformation. Through the use of Bible-based programming, and with the help of thousands of committed volunteers, the cycle of crime is being broken and replaced with a cycle of renewal. Will you join us?
ABOUT VALUES & CAPITALISM
Values & Capitalism is part of the American Enterprise Institute. Their goal is to engage Christian higher education to advance a moral case for free enterprise and cultivate an understanding of the conditions necessary for human flourishing.