In 2013, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly adopted the social statement "The Church and Criminal Justice: Hearing the Cries." This 62 page document includes 3 pages of glossary, and 9 pages of endnotes. It attempts to cover a huge array of topics all related to criminal justice. They include: victims; law enforcement; judicial system; corrections; racism; reentry; immigration detention; the church's call.
Noting that the Bible presents a vision of God's justice, the statement builds a theological case for the church's involvement in issues related to the criminal justice system. The statement lists 4 practices for ELCA members to engage in:
+ Hearing the cries
Other trends the statement supports include:
+Victims' rights and needs
+Community-based alternatives to incarceration
+Reentry programs to prevent recidivism
In addition, the statement notes the significant harms-both personal and social-- resulting from mass incarceration. It encourages :
+Alternatives to incarceration
+Reform of sentencing laws and policies
+Rethinking national drug policy
Other recommendations include:
+Address the racism within the system (both implicit and explicit)
+Recognize special needs of juvenile offenders
+Stop privatization of prison facilities
+Effective re-integration of ex-offenders into community.
You can find the full text of this and other Social Statements at www.elca.org/socialstatements. You can also find study guides for discussion. With legislative sessions coming up in both Montana and Wyoming, you may find this to be an excellent way to engage faith in action.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA