Criminal Legal System: What is Our Call?
Church members gathered on the Saturday before Thanksgiving to learn about our harsh and racially biased Criminal Legal System (CLS) from those directly involved in this system. We were called upon to listen to others, to the holy spirit, and to our hearts in order to discern whether our sacred call to do justice includes a call to do more to help those directly harmed by the CLS.
Kate Green set the tone for the retreat, sharing thoughts on the importance of discernment processes in our sacred traditions. Cindy Adcock led the group in a discussion of the importance of using humanizing language when talking about those caught up in the CLS. She also helped the group deconstruct the concept of Criminal Justice, emphasizing points where those with power and means in our Church may be able to make a difference either by preempting harm or remediating it.
The highlight of the retreat for church members was the opportunity to eat with and hear from five guests who have been directly impacted by the CLS. Their personal stories emphasized how easily it is for Black Americans to become “felons” while White Americans engaged in the same behaviors get a pass and how the collateral consequences of being labeled a “felon” accomplishes none of the supposed goals of the CLS.
Our guests were impressive speakers. Most impressive, however, was their drive and energy to not only rebuild their own lives but to help other directly impacted people do the same. Retreat attendees absorbed all they heard and agreed to talk further about the implications for action.
This project is sponsored by the Ministry of Outreach and Justice. Anyone interested in joining in the further discussion of the Church’s responsibility and opportunity to do justice in the Criminal Legal System should contact Cindy Adcock, , or Nancy Hudson, .