Drug Policy Reform: A Christian Imperative?

What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God?” Micah: 6:8

Perhaps better than any other, this text explains why Protestants for the Common Good has made drug policy reform a central part of our common good agenda.

I invite you to a symposium of Protestants for the Common Good on April 12 to explore Drug Policy Reform: A Christian Imperative?

Why should Christians care about drug policy? Just last week, our new Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle answered this question with a forthrightness I have rarely seen in any political leader. Holding up a copy of the book The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness, President Preckwinkle stated that we as a society we are guilty of “institutional racism.”

She pointed out that more than 50% of Chicago youth do not graduate from high school. Too many are swept up in our criminal justice system for low level drug offenses and become unemployable for the rest of their lives.

“Every adult in Chicago should be ashamed,” she said. “We are failing our youth and in turn, our education system is helping feed our criminal justice system.”

She pointed to a solution: “We need to “expand the alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders and stop criminalizing the African American male population.”

Two weeks ago I was meeting with Rep. Constance Howard on HB 298. This bill will respond to the fact that over 60% of all individuals arrested for low level drug offenses in Chicago either have the charged dropped or are not convicted. Right now, it is up to them to go to court to have their record cleared. The bill will give judges discretion to seal arrest records.

During our meeting, Rep. Howard turned to me and asked, “Why don’t we hear more from the faith community when it comes to redemption, a second chance?”

I did not have a good answer. I hope our symposium will begin to provide one.

I am proud to announce that this event is the first of what will be an annual event in April to honor the memory of Robert W. Wilcox.

During his period as PCG Board Chair, Bob encouraged us to make drug policy reform one of our highest policies. He was profoundly opposed to the so-called “War on Drugs” which he viewed as failed social policy. He urged PCG to develop an agenda to counter this effort.

It has been only in the interim since his death that we have come to realize just how visionary and even courageous was his goal. Drug policy reform is now a key part of PCG’s Common Good Agenda. It should be a concern of churches everywhere.

The symposium will begin promptly at 4:30 and end at 6:00 p.m. Refreshments are available starting at 4:00. The location is The First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington St., 2nd floor. A parking discount of $5.00 at the nearby garage is available until after 4:00 p.m. (Please call 312-223-9544 × 221 for directions and access to the discount.)

Please register and join us to participate in this important discussion.

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