Faith & Criminal Justice

faith-criminal-justice

Currently, Illinois law only permits the sealing of nonviolent misdemeanor offenses and only three Class 4 felonies (possession of marijuana and controlled substances, and prostitution). Because so many offenses cannot be sealed, it is unlikely that most ex-offenders would ever be permitted to fully integrate back into society by being given a chance to work, to improve their education, or to have access to safe affordable housing.

PCG's symposium brings forward a “new paradigm” for responding to low-level, non-violent offenders, especially those caught up in the failed, so-called “War on Drugs.”

Chicago, IL: Join PCG staff and supporters for a fall theater fundraiser event. We’ll be watching (and participating in) “Defamation” a play by Todd Logan. In this courtroom drama, the audience participates as jurors, prompting meaningful conversation on divisive social issues. Tickets are $35 for adults and $15 for students. The event will be held at Chicago Theological Seminary, 1407 E. 60th Street, from 6:00 until 8:30.

Not too long ago, the police department, the prosecutor’s office, and the public defenders association in Seattle, Washington were stalemated. They had been fighting for eight years over allegations of discriminatory law enforcement against African American and Hispanics for low level offenses. Finally, a police lieutenant interrupted one of their meetings: “This isn’t helping anyone. What can we do differently?”

This week our staff has been thinking a lot about redemption, and since this verse was brought forth at our weekly meeting on Monday, the words of Isaiah have weighed heavily on my mind.

What is really needed, now, are game-changing ideas and solutions brought to bear on what we currently understand as drug policy. The general public must recognize that our drug policies do not necessarily address addiction as a disease for which there are successful standards of treatment with reasonably high, as well as cost- effective, cure rates.

In response to escalating violence in our city, Chicago clergy came together on July 23 to call for a weekend of peace and faithful reflection at neighborhood places of worship this July 27-29. Alongside other faith leaders, Rev. Phil Blackwell, PCG's board president and senior pastor at First United Methodist at the Chicago Temple, encouraged all Chicagoans to put their "words into action."

The murder rate in Chicago is up 50% from this time last year, reaching 250 deaths before June's close. Bodies, families, and spirits are broken. Those that live, live in shock. What now? Sojourners has begun a series on this wave of violence, asking contributors who are "on the ground in Chicago working for change" to discuss real, creative solutions to the epidemic.

One of the interesting things about important social change is that you can never quite predict when it will happen, even when you know it is inevitable. So it is with the decriminalizing of small amounts of marijuana in Chicago. The idea simmered in the mind of Mayor Richard M. Daley and the Chicago Police Department for years. The Chicago City Council approved the measure today.

A study from Protestants for the Common Good is sited in the Chicago Tribune.

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