The United States incarcerates 25% of the world’s incarcerated people yet is only 4% of the world’s population. Mass incarceration in the U.S. is clearly driven by systemic racism, as documented by Michelle Alexander in her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness:

  • “The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid” (6).
  • “In some states, black men have been admitted to prison on drug charges at rates twenty to fifty times greater than those of white men” (6).
  • “One in three young African American men will serve time in prison if current trends continue, and in some cities more than half of all young adult black men are currently under correctional control—in prison or jail, on probation or parole” (8).

Turning the tide on mass incarnation is starting to happen, as evidenced by the collaboration of progressives and conservatives in the Coalition for Public Safety (; partners include the ACLU, Center for American Progress, FreedomWorks, and Koch Industries).

There are three areas in which individuals and churches can get involved:
1) engagement … 2) education … 3) advocacy

1) Engage the people and resources already at work:

2) Educate through the identification and use of materials available for small group study and action. Suggestions for consideration include:
3) Advocate for legislative action on any number of current proposals to change law:
  • The so-called “Elderly” bill in Illinois, HB 3668, “Provides that a committed person who is at least 50 years of age and who has served at least 25 consecutive years of imprisonment in a Department of Corrections institution or facility may petition the Prisoner Review Board for participation in the Elderly Rehabilitated Prisoner Sentence Modification Program.”
  • End the Bed Quota Campaign ( “Congressional appropriations language on the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) detention budget states that ‘funding made available under this heading shall maintain a level of not less than 34,000 detention beds.'”
  • The Smarter Sentencing Act ( “fairer, less costly minimum terms for nonviolent drug offenders;” Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is one of the sponsors of this bill.
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