Following a national conference on ways people of faith can work to end mass incarceration, Episcopalians gathered at Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta to identify concrete actions to reduce the number of people harmed by our nation’s criminal justice system.
The conference, held January 11-13 at Ebenezer Baptist Church and The Temple, drew more than 300 people to learn how to reduce the number of people jailed and imprisoned in America – more than any other nation – by a system that hinders those having served their sentences from returning to full participation in society.
The clergy, faith and community leaders, organizers, families, and persons impacted by incarceration who attended the conference were offered practical tools to dismantle the systems and structures that undergird the industry of mass imprisonment.
A closing charge to conference goers to set action goals sparked a meeting Sunday afternoon of more than 30 parishioners from St. Luke’s, Holy Comforter, and All Saints’ in Atlanta and St. Patrick’s Dunwoody who gathered with members of Trinity Presbyterian Church Atlanta, Ebenezer, and The Temple.
Multifaith EMI Georgia Coordinator Nicole Wiesen talked about ways faith communities can assist those released after serving their prison sentences. One way, Wiesen said, is for Faith communities to become Stations of Hope for those returning from prison.
National conference organizer the Rev. John Vaughn of Ebenezer, said Stations of Hope trains communities of faith to be welcoming, safe spaces where returning citizens can receive help and congregations can contribute to reducing incarceration rates by offering healing to those harmed by the adversarial justice process.
Sunday’s meeting participants self-selected to join working groups focusing on expanding existing bail-out programs for those accused of crimes who cannot afford bail, restricting records of those who have completed their sentences so they can get jobs, find housing and avoid returning to prison, and supporting efforts to create victim-centered restorative justice programs.
The group is set to meet again at St. Luke’s on March 12 to refine these goals and report on progress within their faith communities. If you are interested in becoming involved or want to receive information, contact Nicole Wiesen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about the Multifaith Movement to End Mass Incarceration.
The U.S. is 5% of the world’s population but imprisons 25% of all people incarcerated worldwide – more than 2.12 million. Its imprisonment rate of 639 per 100,000 also leads the world.
Georgia has begun reform of its juvenile and adult prisons and reduced recidivism by using accountability courts to handle cases of those whose crimes are associated with addiction, post-traumatic stress, and mental illness. But the state still has a long way to go.
Georgia remains #1 in the U.S. in persons in prison, jail, on parole or probation. Georgia also has the nation’s longest average probation times and ranks in the top 10 of states with highest incarceration rates at 507 per 100,00.