One Year After the Pope's Visit, Join Me In Calling for Criminal Justice Reform
Urge Congress to Act Now!
This week we celebrate the one-year anniversary of Pope Francis’s visit to the United States. The Pope captivated us all during his time here. To the poor, prisoners, and immigrants he said: You are not forgotten. To our elected officials, church leaders, and the privileged he said: Do not forget the poor and marginalized.
In a special way, let us remember his historic address to Congress. During his speech Pope Francis called for the abolition of the death penalty and offered his “encouragement to all those who are convinced that a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.”
The United States has an incarceration problem. We represent 5% of the global population, yet 25% of the total global prison population. More than half of the individuals in federal prison are serving sentences for nonviolent drug crimes. Because of our broken criminal justice system, one in three black men in the United States can expect to be incarcerated at some point in their lives.
People of faith, activists, law enforcement agencies, and elected officials have woken up to this reality and are calling for change. Since the Pope's address to Congress, a bipartisan group of elected officials has been working on important reforms to our criminal justice system. Proposed legislation would help to reduce the use of mandatory minimum drug sentences, provide additional programming in federal prisons, and allocate much needed funding to help people returning from prison connect with important job training, mental health, addiction, and other programs.
Just this week, over 135 Jesuit law school alumni and faculty, including law enforcement professionals, judges, public defenders, and prosecutors, sent a letter to the Jesuit-educated members of Congress calling for criminal justice reform. You can learn more about this letter at the Ignatian Solidarity Network's website.
Today, join me in urging Congress to vote on these important measures this year. Pope Francis reminds us time and again that “God is in everyone’s life.” One year later, let’s continue to work toward a criminal justice system that honors the God-given dignity of every person.
Rev. Timothy P. Kesicki, SJ
Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States