“I was in prison” (Matthew 25:36)
The United States now has the largest rate of incarceration per capita in the world. With only 5% of the world’s population, the US has 25% of the population of incarcerated individuals. Those incarcerated individuals are overwhelmingly men of color.
Between 1970 and 2005 the prison population grew over 700%, far outpacing the population growth rate and the crime rate.
What are we as people of faith to conclude? At the very least, we have a system of incarceration that does not reflect or respect the dignity of the human person, as we are incarcerating individuals at an alarming rate. However, the problem is worse. Incarceration has become a system for private profit in many states, and we have local and federal policies that incentivize the incarceration of individuals by mandating that beds in prisons are filled to specific capacities. This makes it harder for individuals to find work after they have served their sentence, and leads to expanding policies that mandate longer prison sentences across the board rather than allowing judges to consider legal arguments.
Across the board in the United States we spend more money incarcerating individuals than we spend on educating children.
We know that the compass for our policies as a society should be guided by the fundamental dignity of the human person as well as the preferential option for the poor. A prison system meant to warehouse people, and increasingly poor people and people of color, for profit does not reflect our values. We must hold our elected officials accountable to create and enact policies that reflect the dignity of each person, rather than a profit-based or racist agenda.
Organizing Catholics for Justice is bringing Catholics from across the Archdiocese together to push an agenda based on our faith values. Will you join us?
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(Article reposted from Organizing Catholics for Justice website http://organizingcatholicsforjustice.org)