On October 11, FAMM and Justice Fellowship co-hosted a special briefing for congressional staff, entitled "Christianity, Crime, and Punishment: Why Your Constituents Care."
Footage of the briefing is now available on FAMM's YouTube channel. You can watch the remarks of all of our distinguished panelists:
- Dr. Barrett Duke, Southern Baptist Convention
- Galen Carey, National Association of Evangelicals
- Kathy Saile, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
- Craig DeRoche, Justice Fellowship
... most Christians are more concerned that our current system does not reflect biblical teachings. According to all of the panelists, those teachings require both just punishment and restoration of offenders, victims, and communities. But we are failing on both counts.
As for just punishment, half of our federal prisoners are serving lengthy terms for nonviolent drug offenses, at an annual cost of $28,000 per prisoner. But two thirds of all federal drug offenders sentenced each year don't get the benefit of a fair, individualized punishment that matches their crime and their role in it. Instead, they get one-size-fits-all mandatory minimum sentences of five, 10, 15, or 20 years -- or even life without parole. These sentences require a limb for an eye, a leg for a tooth. They can be longer than the terms bank robbers and child rapists receive.
Mandatory minimums also fail completely at restoring offenders, victims, and communities. Instead, they have stuffed the federal prison system to 40 percent over capacity. Prisons should help offenders become self-sufficient, accountable people living crime-free lives, but overcrowding undermines a humane environment in which prisoners can focus on getting sober and becoming educated. Instead, prisoners (and prison staff) have to worry about and cope with the trauma of sexual and physical assaults, which proliferate when guards are outnumbered and overworked. Excessive sentences also wreak havoc on the innocent families prisoners leave behind. All of this becomes a recipe for recidivism and makes our communities less safe, creating more potential victims - the opposite of the community's goal. ...
Each year, thousands of American Christians volunteer with ministries like Prison Fellowship, visit and encourage prisoners, and care for their blameless families and children. But volunteering isn't enough. Christians now want to vote for lawmakers who share their belief in mercy, second chances, and redemption, even for the worst among us. Prison is often necessary to keep us safe, but our high recidivism rates show that it is rarely rehabilitative. In understanding this and supporting better options, Christians are steps ahead of most on Capitol Hill.
It's time for Congress to catch up.