Christian leaders issue Easter statement denouncing drug war and mass incarceration of minorities
By Alfonso Serrano
Aljazeera: April 17, 2014
A coalition of Christian leaders, citing the spirit of Holy Week, has called for an end to mass incarceration in the United States. The ministry of Jesus Christ, they say, was about challenging the unjust systems that held marginalized communities in bondage. And they equate that struggle with the fight against the war on drugs, which not only costs billions of dollars, they say, but also results in the disproportionate incarceration of minorities.
“We are called upon to follow Jesus’s example in opposing the war on drugs, which has resulted in the United States becoming the world’s biggest jailer, with about 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prisoners,” the Rev. Edwin Sanders, senior servant and founder of the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville, Tenn., said in a statement.
The Christian leaders on Wednesday called on the federal government to repeal laws that criminalize low-level drug possession — policies that result in disparate incarceration rates for blacks and Hispanics, studies show. In their place, the federal government should expand drug treatment and other health approaches to drug use, the coalition members said.
The Christian leaders urged Congress to pass the Smarter Sentencing Act. The measure, supported by the Obama administration, would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenders and apply more lenient crack cocaine sentencing policies. The House Judiciary Committee is weighing the bill, after the Senate Judiciary Committee approved it in January.
The recommendations come amid growing mainstream criticism of the U.S. criminal justice system. States spent $3.6 billion in 2010 alone enforcing marijuana possession laws, according to a report by the American Civil Liberties Union. The same study found that blacks are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession that whites with similar usage rates. In areas with the most heightened detention disparities, blacks are 30 times more likely to be arrested.
“The policies of this failed war on drugs, which in reality is a war on people who happen to be poor, primarily black and brown, is a stain on the image of this society,” said the Rev. John E. Jackson, a member of Chicago’s Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference of progressive African-American faith leaders, during a teleconference on Wednesday with a half-dozen religious leaders.
(Read the full article at Aljazeera)
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