Today, hundreds of Christians, including Presbyterians, will converge on Capitol Hill for meetings with the offices of their Senators and Representatives following PC(USA) Compassion, Peace and Justice Training Day and Ecumenical Advocacy Days. This is the culmination of an Advocacy Training Weekend of learning about mass incarceration and systems of exploitation through keynote speakers, workshops, training, worship, and discussion time.
During these meetings today, these Christian advocates will be addressing these two issues –
1. Eliminating the Immigrant Detention Bed Quota (in effect since 2009), a federal budgetary mandate stating that “34,000 detention beds” must be filled at any given time. In order to fill the detention bed quota law enforcement targets immigrants and detains them in mostly private detention centers where human rights abuses run rampant.
2. Ending Mandatory Minimum Sentencing. Mandatory minimum sentences are excessive and contribute to significant racial disparities in the federal prison system.
Both of these problems have contributed significantly to the explosion of incarceration in the United States.
Join fellow advocates by urging your Senators and Representatives to pass make these important policy changes. Click here to write to your Members of Congress today!
Striking the Quota from Appropriations bills
In the House, Congressmen Deutch (D-FL) and Foster (D-IL) will introduce an amendment to strike the quota language in the Fiscal Year 2016 Appropriations bill. Ask your Representatives to vote in favor of this amendment and garner support for the elimination of the quota. Detaining people just to meet a quota and to pad the profits of private prison companies is not only unjust. It is bad policy.
To address mandatory minimum sentencing, urge your Senators and Representatives to support the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2015 (S. 502/H.R. 920), sponsored by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Representatives Raúl Labrador (R-ID) andBobby Scott (D-VA), and the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2015 (S. 353/H.R. 706), sponsored by Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Patrick Leahy (R-VT) and Representatives Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Bobby Scott (D-VA).
The Smarter Sentencing Act would limit long mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, expand judicial discretion in cases involving the lowest level drug offenses, and reduce the federal prison population by retroactively implementing the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (a significant reduction in the sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine).
The Justice Safety Valve Act would restore judicial discretion in all federal criminal cases by allowing the broadest departure from mandatory minimum sentences.
Read a detailed description of the lobby day ask here.
What does the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) say about these issues?
In 1910 the General Assembly declared that the church ought to stand “For the development of a Christian spirit in the attitude of society toward offenders against the law. The Church holds that a Christian society must seek the reformation of offenders…” (Minutes, PCUSA, 1910, Part I, p. 232).
In 1988, the 200th General Assembly reaffirmed that “individual Presbyterians and the entities of the General Assembly . . . advocate a social order where compassion and justice characterize efforts toward those in the criminal justice system.”
In 2003, the 215th General Assembly stated in a “Resolution Calling for the Abolition of For-Profit Private Prisons”that “the ultimate goal of the criminal justice system should be restorative justice, addressing the hurts and the needs of the victim, the offender, and community in such a way that all might be healed.” Moreover, it states, “Since the goal of for-profit prisons is earning a profit for their shareholders, there is a basic and fundamental conflict with the concept of rehabilitation as the ultimate goal of the prison system.”