An Ecumenical Call for Reform

The Justice Declaration, an interfaith call for criminal justice reform, was announced on June 20. It is an initiative of religious leaders that calls upon Congress and all in government to institute changes based on Restorative Justice to bring about a system that is “fair and redemptive for all”. Most of the Declaration’s initial signers are members of evangelical Christian churches, but it is an effort that merits the support of all faithful citizens.

You can access the full text of the Declaration at www.justicedeclaration.org. Its ten points are introduced as “an urgent appeal to all who follow the Lord Jesus Christ”. There is no mistaking the document’s stress on needed actions—evidenced in the use of verbs like “Advocate”, “Preach”, “Invest”, “Celebrate”, and others. They are a good summary of the principles that should unite Christians of all denominations and people of other faiths as well. They affirm basic family and social values upon which all can agree. The final point focuses on prisoner reentry, a task that is being addressed by Our Brothers’ Keepers of Southern Illinois.

In all honesty, however, we should take Christian positions on other criminal justice issues about which the Justice Declaration remains either vague or silent. Examples would be capital punishment, racial and ethnic disparities, immigrant detention, and privatized prisons. These tend to be controversial and divisive because they arise from some of deepest and unresolved questions of our national identity, which is precisely why they should be discussed in the public forum. Until now we have not acknowledged the takeover of “inherently governmental” functions by corporate interests.

The Justice Declaration, nevertheless, merits the support of all who share Our Brothers’ Keepers’ vision of successful prisoner reentry. To add your name to the growing list of signers, go to www.justicedeclaration.org and you will be taken (by way of the Prison Fellowship website) to the page “Declare Your Support” with appropriate instructions.