This Independence Day, fireworks will light up the sky accompanied by songs like "The Star-Spangled Banner." But while our national anthem declares us "the land of the free," we actually have more people behind bars than any other country on earth.
REFORM IS NEEDED
There are nearly 2.2 million Americans behind bars, 2.7 million children with a parent in prison, and 65 million people hobbled by the consequences of a criminal conviction. Data clearly shows that our country's over-reliance on incarceration fails to make us safer or restore the people and communities who have been harmed.
Our misguided response to crime has pervasive, devastating, and long-lasting consequences for individuals and American society at large. Though we spend $70 billion dollars on corrections every year, the return on the public's investment in incarceration is poor. Outrageous shortcomings in our current system lead to high rates of recidivism, broken families, distressed neighborhoods, and endangered public safety.
That's why Prison Fellowship®, worked with prominent Christian leaders and partner organization, including the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the National Association of Evangelicals, to craft the Justice Declaration.
The Justice Declaration is a call to the Church to deploy its unique and unparalleled capacity to respond to crime and over-incarceration.
THE JUSTICE DECLARATION
Because the good news of Jesus Christ calls the Church to advocate (or 'be a witness') for biblical truth and to care for the vulnerable, we, His followers, call for a justice system that is fair and redemptive for all. The Church has both the unique ability and unparalleled capacity to confront the staggering crisis of crime and incarceration in America and to respond with restorative solutions for communities, victims, and individuals responsible for crime."
CHANGE OUR COMMUNITY, CHANGE OUR NATION
At the June 20 press conference that officially launched the Justice Declaration, Pastor Dimas, a drug kingpin-turned-pastor, a signer of the declaration, and president of Concerts of Prayer Greater New York, shared how important this document is to him on a personal level.
"The declaration is so powerful, it's so needed," he said. "As the body of Christ, we can change a community, and we can change our nation. I am living proof that when you grab somebody out of the pits of hell and you turn their life around, they can be great contributors to our society."
So how can the Church respond? How can Christians declare that we stand for justice?
A NEW DECLARATION
Our country was founded on a belief that human dignity is God-given, and our government ought to respect and protect that dignity. We encourage all followers of Christ to add their names to the Justice Declaration, and take action with us to restore those impacted by crime and incarceration. Together we can advocate for a restorative system based on the worth and potential of each person made in the image of God, including victims and survivors of crime, prisoners, people with a criminal record, families, and communities.
We ask that you remember those in prison, their families, and the victims and communities affected by crime and incarceration on this Independence Day.
Visit JusticeDeclaration.org to declare your support.
OTHER ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE
THE CHURCH STANDS WITH THE JUSTICE DECLARATION
On June 20, Prison Fellowship® and its partners announced the launch of the Justice Declaration during a press conference.
FIVE WAYS TO GET INVOLVED IN PRISON OUTREACH
Prison outreach can directly impact the lives of the incarcerated. Here are five ways that you and your church can start your prison outreach ministry.