Our guest blogger, Rabbi Dr. Rachel S. Mikva, is the Herman Schaalman Chair in Jewish Studies at Chicago Theological Seminary and Director of the Center for Jewish, Christian and Islamic Studies. Suddenly there’s bipartisan enthusiasm for criminal justice reform. Forty years after liberal and conservative forces joined to restrict discretionary sentencing, thirty years after launching a futile war on drugs, twenty years after a Democratic president signed the “three strikes” law, the winds are shifting. It is still politically dangerous to be seen as soft on crime, but “smart on crime” is in. We now talk about public safety rather than law and order.
Our guest blogger is Jeanne Bishop, assistant public defender at Cook County Public Defender’s Office, adjunct professor of law at Northwestern, author of Change of Heart: Justice, Mercy and Making Peace with My Sister’s Killer (Westminster John Knox Press) and a member of Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago. On February 11, 2015, newly-inaugurated Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner did a bold and widely-applauded act: he issued an executive order designed to solve a serious problem facing the State. That problem: mass incarceration.
On October 4, 2015, under the banner of UNITE TO FACE ADDICTION, over thousands individuals from around the world gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D. C. to shine a light on the addiction crisis in this country. The rallying cry was: “Addiction is preventable and treatable. Far too many of those affected have been incarcerated. People can and do get well. For too long, a great majority of people connected to addiction have remained silent. The time is now to end that silence.” CLERGY FOR A NEW DRUG POLICY (CNDP) joined over more than 450 organizations as participating partners. We look forward to supporting the agenda of Facing Addiction, the rally’s parent organization. Our goal must be adequate funding for treatment rather than stigmatizing and incarcerating those struggling with drug use.
Today’s guest blogger is Jonathan Holmes, Policy Specialist at Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. People with criminal records face significant barriers in society. A charge or conviction can impact one’s ability to find housing, employment, and stability. The War on Drugs and mass incarceration policies have had a detrimental impact on the lives of many who are seeking to turn their lives around, but because of past records, are unable to provide for their families and be assets to their communities.
Increasingly, Protestants denominations are responding to the War on Drugs, which over the past 44 years has failed to reduce drug use, damaged countless lives, and contributed to the mass incarceration that shames our country. On June 20, 2015 the New England Conference of United Methodists, comprised of over 600 congregations, passed Resolution 15-203: TO END THE WAR ON DRUGS. It is expected that the resolution will be reviewed in June 2016 by the Methodist General Conference, which meets every four years to consider changes in the Methodist Book of Discipline. We are grateful to Rev. Eric Dupee, Pastor of Crawford Memorial Church in Winchester, MA, for describing the steps he took in introducing the resolution. We applaud his leadership.