Thursday, March 3, 2016

Interfaith Community urges House passage of bipartisan criminal justice reforms

The Honorable Paul D. Ryan                                                   The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
United States House of Representatives                                  United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515                                                           Washington, DC 20515

March 3, 2016

RE: Interfaith community urges House passage of bipartisan criminal justice reforms 

Dear Speaker Ryan and Minority Leader Pelosi:

Our faith communities are on the front lines in neighborhoods ravaged by a broken criminal justice system. From our vantage point, we see this nation’s reliance on mass incarceration to solve drug addiction, poverty, mental illness and joblessness as an affront to justice and human dignity. As people of faith, we are called to comfort and serve those harmed by crime and support accountability, rehabilitation and restoration for those who offend. To that end, we are joined in our commitment to advancing bipartisan legislation in the House of Representatives that honors these beliefs through meaningful criminal justice reform.

We applaud the good bipartisan leadership and hard work of the House’s Judiciary Committee that led to committee passage of three important bills: the Sentencing Reform Act (H.R. 3713), the Corrections and Recidivism Reduction Act (H.R. 759) and the Second Chance Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3406). Together these bills would reduce harsh sentences, incentivize prison rehabilitation, ban shackling of pregnant women in federal custody and expand opportunities for Americans returning home after incarceration. We urge you to support H.R. 3713, H.R. 759 and H.R. 3406, and to act quickly to bring these bills for a floor vote as a package.

A federal prison crisis is looming due to overcrowding caused by excessive mandatory minimum sentences and a prison system with limited rehabilitative opportunities. Our moral sensibility compels faith leaders across the country to advocate for reform and we can no longer wait for action. To miss the opportunity to pass new criminal justice reform legislation would be a major setback for thousands of people awaiting justice and a fairer sentencing system and in need of rehabilitative support.

Moreover, we believe inaction will harm children and families across the country. The burden of mass incarceration is felt most intensely by children with parents in prison or labeled with a criminal record. The long absence of mothers and fathers, who despite their failings are loved, valued and critical to maintaining their children’s well-being, has a lasting impact. Nationally, one out of nine African American children has an incarcerated parent. Their likelihood of incarceration increases when this disruption enters their life

While this legislation does not fully address all of our concerns with the federal criminal justice system, the introduction and Judiciary Committee approval of H.R. 3713, H.R. 759 and H.R. 3406 marks a critical turning point in the movement to reform the nation’s criminal justice system and serves as a model for bipartisan cooperation in policymaking.

We urge you to take the important next step of allowing a vote by the full House on these three critical bills soon.


 African American Ministers In Action
The African Methodist Episcopal Church - Social Action Commission
Alliance of Baptists
The American Baptist Home Mission Societies
American Friends Service Committee
Bend the Arc Jewish Action
Bread for the World
Buddhist Vihara Society
Cambodian Buddhist Society
Catholic Charities USA
Christian Churches Together
The Christian Reformed Church, Office of Social Justice
Church of the Brethren, Office of Public Witness
Church of Scientology National Affairs Office
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Disciples Center for Public Witness
Disciples Justice Action Network
Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries
The Episcopal Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Faith in Public Life
Friends Committee on National Legislation
The Glenmary Home Missioners - Commission on Justice
Global Justice Institute
Healing Communities USA
Ignatian Solidarity Network
Islamic Society of North America, Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances
Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States
Kentucky Council of Churches
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
Metropolitan Community Churches
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Churches
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
NETWORK, National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Nichiren Shu Order (Buddhist) of North America
North American Passionists, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Desk
Pax Christi USA
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Prison Fellowship
Provincial Council of the Clerics of St. Viator
The Salvation Army National Headquarters
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, Institute Justice Team
T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Unitarian Universalist Association
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development
Cc: Members of the U.S. House of Representatives