VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 4/28/14)—American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) joined other members of the Faith in Action Criminal Justice Reform Working Group in praising U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announcements last week to expedite a clemency process for individuals serving excessive sentences for low-level and nonviolent offenses in federal prison.
Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement that the DOJ would be prepared to consider thousands of applications to President Obama for commutation (reduction in sentence or immediate release). Having urged President Obama last year to more robustly use his authority to grant clemency, the working group applauded the president’s increased focus on remedying the racially disparate consequences of the “War on Drugs.”
According to the working group, the review would be an unprecedented undertaking for this class of prisoner and could significantly reduce unnecessarily long prison sentences meted out under nearly 30-year-old mandatory-minimum sentences for drug crimes. The group seeks a more just and humane criminal justice system that prioritizes restorative justice instead of overly punitive prison sentences.
“For years, the system has applied unnecessarily long prison sentences for drug crimes, and young people of color have been especially affected,” says the Rev. Fela Barrueto, ABHMS national coordinator of Prisoner Re-entry and Aftercare Ministry. “Last week’s action provides hope to many families who suffer when their children are locked up because of one mistake. It also provides hope to those involved in the prison system who are willing to work on restorative justice practices.”
An interfaith coalition of 35 religious organizations, the Faith in Action Criminal Justice Reform Working Group includes ABHMS, National Council of Churches (USA), Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Friends Committee on National Legislation, the Social Action Commission of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies—the domestic mission arm of American Baptist Churches USA—ministers as the caring heart and serving hands of Jesus Christ across the United States and Puerto Rico through a multitude of initiatives that focus on discipleship, community and justice.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.