Please join us in a conversation with Rev. Raphael Warnock to hear about the Multifaith Initiative to End Mass Incarceration, newly launched at a national conference in June in Atlanta. Auburn Seminary, Ebenezer Baptist Church, The Temple, and other interfaith partners are collaborating on this national initiative to leverage the spiritual power, people power, and resources in faith communities toward ongoing efforts to catalyze a faith-rooted response to ending mass incarceration.
The U.S., home to just five percent of the world population, holds 25% of the world’s prison population. There are 2.3 million people in the nation’s prisons and jails—a 500% increase in the past 40 years. The land of the free is the incarceration capital of the world.
In no area of American society are the legacies of slavery and racism more clear than in the criminal justice system. Tracing its lineage through the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow, the genocide and multi-generational epidemic of mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex is a dominant expression of systemic racism in U.S. society today. Despite making up only 12% of the U.S. population, Black people make up 50% of the country’s prison population. Both Blacks and Latinx are more than twice as likely as others to be held in detention prior to trial, which increases the likelihood that they’ll be sentenced to incarceration after trial and for longer periods of time While racial bias plays a key role, excessive sentencing laws and widespread socioeconomic inequality are also part of this complex problem. The cash bail system penalizes those without wealth, crowding jails with people who exist on the margins of the economy, lacking access to education and jobs. The result is a system that incarcerates people simply for being poor.
Even after the trauma and stigmatization of incarceration, former inmates face penalties including discrimination in housing and employment, the inability to vote, and exclusion from public benefits, student loans, and some professional licenses. Those who serve time in America’s prisons—or plead guilty in exchange for little or no actual prison time—face continued stigmas and compounded challenges as they are legally barred from full citizenship.