Vincent de Paul Society – support Criminal Justice Reform

by | Jul 30, 2015 | Justice and Peace, News

Sheila GIlbertUnited States Society of St. Vincent de Paul National President asks support for Criminal Justice Reform

Dear Vincentians:

Our country’s incarceration system is tearing at the fabric of families and communities and is costing tax payers billions of dollars each year. Rather than healing and restoring, as our faith teaches, the criminal justice system is leaving far too many children without a parent in their home and is increasingly the root cause of poverty in our communities.

Through our personal encounters with those in need, we know first-hand the devastating family and societal impacts of mass incarceration: unemployment, childhood poverty, disconnection, and lack of opportunity.  We strive to see the face of Jesus in each person we serve, and we understand that all people, even the formerly incarcerated, have inherent human dignity and are deserving of love.

Three federal bills, each with bi-partisan support, have the potential to bring about significant change in our criminal justice system.  Consequently, I ask you to support these by e-mailing your U.S. Senators and House Representative.  The three bills are: the Smarter Sentencing Act, the CORRECTIONS Act, and Second Chance Act. Together with other Catholic organizations, we believe these three bills are ones that promote healing, support families, create opportunity, and improve safety.

In brief, the Smarter Sentencing Act will save millions of dollars and lower incarceration rates by decreasing minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders and drug offenders. The Second Chance Act provides resources for local communities to assist men and women with criminal records in finding employment and new skills to thrive. The CORRECTIONS Act seeks to decrease the cost of prisons by reducing recidivism and re-investing cost savings so achieved in communities most impacted by the criminal justice system. Learn more about these bills at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/criminal-justice-restorative-justice/index.cfm .

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in its 2000 pastoral statement, Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, stated, “Just as God never abandons us, so too we must be in covenant with one another. We are all sinners, and our response to sin and failure should not be abandonment and despair, but rather justice, contrition, reparation, and return or re-integration of all into the community.”

I also would remind you to include the stories of the people you see during your visits. As always, please do not use names of those we serve.

Please contact your member of Congress, share with them why you support these bills, and ask that they work to see them passed this year.  Considerable momentum now exists in support of these bills from all quarters.  Your strong support at this time could well be the extra push needed to finally bring about this much needed systemic change. Since Congress is about to go on summer recess, it would be helpful to send this alert to their in-state office as well as schedule a visit to and discuss with them in person. Just as in our home visits, Vincentians always go in pairs. This is another way to live out our ministry.

Take action!

Sincerely,

Sheila Gilbert
National President
United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul

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