Next Steps for the Commission on Christian Action to Take to Address Mass Incarceration
The Commission on Christian Action’s report to General Synod 2015 identified issues related to mass incarceration that were not covered in its 2014 report to synod on mass incarceration, and the following next steps to address these issues:
- Put a face on the issue by making a video that can be shown at General Synod and made available to churches. The purpose of the video is to humanize those who are currently and formerly incarcerated, including Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, and youth. The video would include prisoners and families telling their stories, talking about how God has worked in their lives both in and out of prison, sharing how they feel about the church, and would show that God loves the incarcerated as much as he loves those who are free.
- It was very difficult to locate recent statistics regarding Native Americans/Alaskan Natives and incarceration. A Huffington Post report that includes a 2010 Bureau of Justice Statistics publication on incarceration rates by race and ethnicity includes some data about Native American and Alaskan Natives (www.prisonpolicy.org/graphs/2010rates/US.html).
- Prison chaplains were surveyed; a snapshot of the survey results includes ways the church can partner with prison chaplains:
- Congregations can assist chaplains in preparing incarcerated people with essential life skills necessary for successful living upon release from prison.
- Outside church groups can participate with incarcerated people in worship as a short-term mission experience.
- Congregations can identify members who are willing to journey with formerly incarcerated people upon reentry to society.
- Congregations can provide networking opportunities within the community for employment, housing, and other needs.
- The chaplains can be a prophetic voice that can provide perception and experience by speaking at General Synod and/or highlighting their work on the RCA website.
- The coalition is considering developing a survey that could be distributed to local churches to gain an understanding of the experience of mass incarceration as it relates to friends and family members of the church. Survey results would be used as a backdrop to develop a Bible study and prayer guide for churches and individuals. Additionally, the survey would provide data and information that the issue of mass incarceration is a whole church issue that impacts our congregants as well as those outside of the church. A strategy for question development and distribution is needed.
- Capitalizing on the “It’s Time” campaign with an “It’s Time to Talk about Mass Incarceration” segment.