The wave of UUs and congregations that have been galvanized by participating in the UUA Common Read of The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander has been nothing short of inspiring to us here in the Multicultural Growth & Witness staff team.
Like many of you, we have long seen mass incarceration and its devastating impact on communities of color in this country as one of the central justice concerns today. Together we are educating each other, ministering with people who are incarcerated, and taking action to dismantle the system of mass incarceration.
And we are finally starting to succeed in calling attention to this crisis: the Smarter Sentencing Act, introduced in July 2013, is a bipartisan bill that would deal a landmark blow to mass incarceration. The UUA is part of an interfaith coalition urging the Senate to make this bill a priority!
Clergy and congregational presidents are invited to join UUA President Rev. Peter Morales insigning the interfaith letter hosted by the United Methodist Church. Please ask yours to do so! Lay leaders and others can sign this petition from Families Against Mandatory Minimums.
Overly punitive mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses have disproportionately incarcerated people of color for low-level and nonviolent offenses for decades, leading to the crisis today: the federal prison population has increased 800% since 1980 and if incarceration trends continue, one in three black men born today will be incarcerated at some point in their lives.
The Smarter Sentencing Act will cut mandatory minimum sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses in half. It also will enable judicial review of cases sentenced under the old 100-to-1 crack cocaine disparity for possible resentencing.
As UUs collectively stated in our 2005 Statement of Conscience on Criminal Justice and Prison Reform:
The magnitude of injustice and inequity in this [corrections] system stands in stark contrast to the values that our nation—and our faith—proclaim. [UUs] are compelled to witness this dissonance between what America proclaims for criminal justice and what America practices.
Today, a group of UUA staff, UU state advocacy network leaders, and UU clergy organizers are gathering in Chicago for an Interreligious Organizing Initiative Summit on Criminalization and Race. We will give a report-back at a meeting at General Assembly. Please join the Facebook group UUs Resisting New Jim Crow & Mass Incarceration to join the UU movement and learn about the Summit, the General Assembly meeting, and more.
You can find resources for building this movement in your congregation and community atwww.uua.org/thenewjimcrow.