Christian Leaders Call for U. S. to End War of Drugs, Mass Incarceration

(Reuters/John Gress/Files)
(Reuters/John Gress/Files)

As the Easter holiday approaches, several Christian leaders called for the U.S. to end the war on drugs and mass incarceration of offenders. The faith leaders said they hoped the story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ inspires the resurrection of people and communities devastated by what they said was failed U.S. drug policy.

“The policies of this failed war on drugs — which in a reality, is a war on people who happen to be poor, primarily black and brown — is a stain on the image of this society,” said the Rev. John E. Jackson, senior pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Gary, Ind., and leader of the social justice organization Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, on a conference call Wednesday organized by the Drug Policy Alliance. “Instead of trying to help individuals heal and become whole and have the help they need, people are being stigmatized for profit in the privatized prison system in this country.

“If this resurrection season means anything,” Jackson continued, “it means that people are to be loved and not used. People should be helped and not harassed and that people should be placed above profit.”

The United States incarcerates more of its population than any country in the world. That’s largely because of harsh sentences for certain drug-related crimes. There are roughly 25,000 drug-related convictions in federal courts each year and, according to The Associated Press, 45 percent of those are for lower-level offenses. State and local courts handle the vast majority of drug crimes.

“The ministry of Jesus the Christ was about challenging unjust systems that held individuals and marginalized communities in bondage,” said the Rev. Robina Winbush, a Presbyterian Church leader and president of Churches Uniting In Christ. “He empowered his disciples to touch lives and tear down strongholds of captivity. He commissioned them to care for the most vulnerable in society and give witness to the reign of God marked by justice.”

A reformed drug policy also may help right some racial wrongs, the church leaders said.

More than 2.2 million people are incarcerated in the U.S., a number that has quadrupled since the 1980s.

If current incarceration trends continue, one in every three black males born in America today can expect to go to prison at some point in their life, compared with one in six Latino males, and one in 17 white males, according to a recent report by the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based justice reform group.

“Racial disparities within the criminal justice system are just one manifestation of institutionalized racism in our society,” Winbush said.

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SOURCE: The Huffington Post
Matt Ferner

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