For many Christians, George Floyd's tragic death was an 8-minute, 46-second wake-up call for justice for all.
For all the reasons 2020 will be remembered—and there are many—eight minutes and 46 seconds of smartphone video surely will stand out. Swift and far-reaching was the reaction to George Floyd's horrifying death, as a Minneapolis police officer purposely kneeled on his neck.
Public outcry and protests erupted in streets here and around the globe. Politicians and athletes of all backgrounds—not just African Americans—voiced outrage and condemnation. Corporations, nonprofit organizations, and national sports leagues joined in what amounted to a historical, multi-cultural chorus denouncing racism and affirming the value and dignity of Black lives.
Many Christian clergy, including evangelicals, acknowledged from the pulpit this nation’s centuries-old, endemic racial inequality, calling for prayer, peaceful protest, and action in the pursuit of justice for all. We at Prison Fellowship® stand with our brothers and sisters of faith who decry racism as both an individual and systemic sin that violates human dignity and worth.
UNEQUAL JUSTICE UNDER THE LAW
As the nation's largest Christian nonprofit serving prisoners, former prisoners, and their families, and a leading advocate for criminal justice reform, we see firsthand systemic racial imbalances. People of color—particularly Black Americans—confront undeniable institutionalized inequality and bias.
For example, while only 13% of the American populace, Black Americans are 27% of those arrested. Of the 2018 adult probation population, 55% were white individuals and fully 30% were Black. The remaining probation population included 13% Hispanic, 1% American Indian/Alaska Native, 1% Asian, less than 1% Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, and less than 1% individuals who identify as two or more races.
What's more, communities of color are subject to higher-than-average rates of traffic stops and police searches. African Americans are more likely than white Americans to be subjected to police threat or actual use of force. African Americans are significantly more likely to be arrested for a drug crime, even though rates of drug use and trafficking are roughly equal across all races. And, federal sentencing data indicate that when convicted, Black males are often subjected to harsher-than-average sentences and less likely to receive any form of reduced sentence, charge, or plea agreement, when compared to similarly situated individuals of non-African American descent.
Racial bias and injustice contribute directly to these trends, as do other pervasive upstream issues like instability in housing and family structures, unequal access to quality education, and poverty.
BIBLICAL JUSTICE FOR ALL
At Prison Fellowship, we believe, as the Bible attests, since the fall, humanity's individual and collective sin have threatened and destroyed the safety and peace God intended. Both the Old and New Testaments express a divine preoccupation with justice.
As God's people, our faith calls us to action and accountability, and we take seriously the biblical mandate to pursue justice and equality in our communities.
As the nation's largest Christian nonprofit serving prisoners, former prisoners, and their families, and a leading advocate for criminal justice reform, we believe ending racism must be addressed at both individual and systemic levels.
For more than 40 years, we've been in the trenches, working to advance justice that restores and reflects the God-given value of all persons. We have played a prominent role, helping to pass groundbreaking federal legislation and launching initiatives that make the criminal justice system more restorative, including:
- The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (1993).
- The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (2000).
- The Prison Rape Elimination Act (2003).
- The Second Chance Act (2008).
- The Fair Sentencing Act (2010).
- The FIRST STEP Act (2018).
In addition, our advocacy team has worked for the passage of hundreds of state reforms.
In some cases, legislation can help mitigate inequalities, and we have been advocating for proportional sentencing that addresses the systemic biases and prejudices borne by people of color. We also acknowledge that the ultimate elimination of racial bias requires each of us to consider our own beliefs, attitudes, and positions in light of the Gospel and with the help of the Holy Spirit.
We carry on the work of our founder, Chuck Colson, who taught that Christians are called to discern a biblical perspective on the deep-rooted social problems so prevalent today. We encourage all Christians to join us.