‘Justice Declaration’ Unveiled to Guide Church’s Response to National Criminal Justice Crisis
Framework Signed by Some 100 Christian Leaders Aims to Mobilize Christians to Advocate for Restorative Justice Reform and Respond to Needs of Those Affected by Crime and Incarceration
Prison Fellowship and a coalition of Christian leaders from across the nation today unveiled the Justice Declaration, an unprecedented appeal to Christians to take a stand against the nation's misguided response to crime, which has failed to make the country safer and is devastating to families and society.
The Justice Declaration is an initiative of Prison Fellowship, the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the National Association of Evangelicals, and some 100 Christian leaders are among the original signatories of the declaration. Now Americans can add their signatures to the effort at JusticeDeclaration.org.
"New polling commissioned by Prison Fellowship from the Barna Group shows that among all Americans, Christians have a particularly strong commitment to care for prisoners on account of our values," said James Ackerman, president and CEO of Prison Fellowship. "The Justice Declaration represents a historic moment for the church, rallying Christians to apply those same values to advance a justice system that is fair and redemptive for all."
The unveiling also featured discussion of the results of a new Barna poll commissioned by Prison Fellowship to determine Christians' perceptions of justice issues, and a white paper proposing faith-based solutions to the problem of over-criminalization in the U.S.
Notable results of the polling include:
- Younger adults (Millennials and Gen Xers) are more likely to agree that harsher punishments might be needed for certain crimes to set an example; older adults (Boomers and Elders) are more likely to disagree. Evangelicals are substantially more likely to disagree with this premise of setting an example, indicating their priority for individual justice as well as mercy.
- About one quarter of Americans strongly agree that former prisoners should not face further penalties after they are released. Millennials and Gen Xers are significantly more likely to agree, and this belief is even stronger among young practicing Christians.
- Evangelical Christians expressed the greatest concern that sending youth to prison will make them more likely to live lives of crime.
- Nearly half of all Americans are "very concerned" about the criminal justice system.
- A higher percentage of practicing Christians than other Americans said one of their top concerns is needing more rehabilitative programs that prepare people to live crime-free upon release.
- More Christians than other Americans "agree strongly" that "the primary goal of the criminal justice system should be restoration for all parties, including the victim and the impacted community, as well as the person who committed the crime."
Leaders from across the nation joined the coalition and voiced their support for the initiative:
"There is no doubt that crime is a moral issue," said Russell Moore, Ph.D., president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. "Our response to crime is no less a moral issue. It is precisely because the church cares about justice that followers of Jesus should work toward a criminal justice system that metes out judgment for the purpose of restoration and rehabilitation."
"Chuck Colson rightly believed the church has unique resources to bring restoration to lives, families and communities impacted by crime," said John Stonestreet, president of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. "This statement calls the church to be the church in a place where they have much to offer."
"We know our prisons are full, and costs are expensive. We know the vast range of crimes calls for a vast variety of responses. We know God calls us to justice," said Leith Anderson, Ph.D., president of the National Association of Evangelicals. "The challenge is, we're often not doing what we know to be best."
About Prison Fellowship
Prison Fellowship is the nation's largest outreach to prisoners, former prisoners and their families, and a leading advocate for criminal justice reform. With 40 years of experience helping restore men and women behind bars, Prison Fellowship advocates for federal and state criminal justice reforms that transform those responsible for crime, validate victims and encourage communities to play a role in creating a safe, redemptive and just society.