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Prisoner Reentry And The Black Church Community
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Prisoner Reentry And The Black Church Community


Confronting the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry in the African American Community

Confronting the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry in the African American Community

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  • This presentation is primarily meant to spur a discussion surrounding the critical issue of the Transition of Prisoners, from incarceration back into our communities. It seeks only to bring some issues to the forefront, which must be considered as we, the black community, come to a realization that this is a National issue, but it is also particularly a “black” and increasingly a “brown” issue. It is an issue which will only be effectively engaged if it is led by the people of Christ, truly acting as a unified Body of Christ. The solutions to crime within our communities and incarceration of our young men can not be achieved at their root level by Government, though Government certainly must play a critical role. The basis for this statement is established within the context of having a clear understanding of the fact that crime is indeed a complicated issue, with economic and social aspects to it, but at it’s core, at it’s most personal and individual level, crime is a moral issue. This is not to be mistaken with an errant understanding that the condition of being incarcerated in and of it self is a moral issue. There is no doubt that the American Justice system is rampant with tremendous racial bias and inequity, and that intentional Policing strategies and extreme racial bias on the part of American law enforcement results in the unfair targeting and incarceration of people of color. But what is true and must be forcefully stated and sufficiently understood is that the crime is fundamentally a moral issue; which is simply another way of saying that crime is a “sin” issue. There is no viable way of disputing this from any realistic theological standpoint; it is in fact a statement of truth. This being the case; if crime is a sin issue, then the implications for the church are clear. The only way to effectively “deal” with sin, is through a changed heart. The only way to truly and permanently change a heart is through a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. Therefore, for the Church, the ones whom our Lord commanded ..”.Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, -(and I emphasize, yes, even the nation of prisoners)- baptizing them in the name of the father son and Holy spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you!”…the implications are clear. While we must engage the judicial system in order to change policies and laws that are unfair and unjust; while we must challenge law enforcement to change policies, strategies, and tactics that are racially motivated, unfair and unjust; while we must work with government to begin investing on the “front end” in communities that are economically ravaged and devoid of genuine opportunity; We must absolutely understand that, what we are actually engaged in is a very real battle for the hearts, minds, and very souls of our current and next generation; a battle for our children, and their children, and the viability of us as a people. It is that large, that real and that serious. It has been stated that this issue of the mass imprisonment of black men, women, and youth, and the incredible number of children impacted by parental incarceration is indeed the current great and critical Civil Rights issue. This is indeed true and as with the Civil Rights Movement of the 50’s and 60’s, it will only be won on the backs of committed people of God, acting with incredible resolve, sacrificing substantially, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is this discussion which needs to be engaged, operating from a clear perspective that this difficult issue is in fact …”A current crisis, A cultural imperative, and an obligation of the Church.


  • 1. The Transition of Prisoners A Current Crisis; A Cultural Imperative; An Obligation of the Church
  • 2. Analyzing the Scope of the Prisoner Problem
    • 2,200,000 + prisoners in the U.S.
      • 774,000 in 1990
      • US largest incarcerating nation in world
    • 7,000,000 + under “Correctional Supervision”
      • 3.2 million in 1990
    • Recidivism at a rate of nearly 70%
  • 3. The Cultural Impact: The Exodus
    • African Americans represent 12.7% of the national population, yet 48.2% of the national prison population 1
    • 1 out of every 8 black men between the ages of 25 and 29 is incarcerated on any given day 2
    • Over 700,000 (33%)of those in prison are black men between the ages of 25 and 39 years 6
    • About 1 in 3 black men will go to prison in their lifetime as opposed to 1 in 6 Hispanic men and 1 in 17 white men 3
    • African American males are incarcerated at more than 6 times the rate of white males 4
    • Although White youth sell and use drugs at the same or higher rates as youth of color Black and Latino youth are arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned at dramatically higher rates for drug crimes.
      • In 1980, 14.5% of all juvenile drug arrests were Black youth; by 1990, Black youth constituted 48.8% of juvenile drug arrests
      • Among young people incarcerated in juvenile facilities for the first time on a drug charge, the rate of commitment among Black youth is 48 times that of Whites
      • While the rate of young Whites being sent to prison for drug offenses from 1986-1996 doubled, the comparable Black rate increased six-fold
  • 4. The Cultural Impact: The Return
    • Over 630,000 inmates will return from incarceration to communities within the next 12 months
    • Over 80% of all inmates return to the nations largest 25 urban centers
    • About 44% of black inmates returning from prison have not graduated from High School.
    • The majority of inmates leave prison with no savings, no immediate entitlement to unemployment benefits, and few job prospects. One year after release as many as 60% of former inmates are not employed in the legitimate labor market.
    • More than 1.4 million African-American men (out of a total population of roughly 10 .4 million) are unable to vote due to a past felony conviction. That’s more than the combined population of every Black male and female living in Atlanta; Cleveland; Boston; Miami; Phoenix; St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo.; Richmond Va.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Louisville, Ky.; and San Diego and Sacramento, Calif. 5
    • “ Mass influx in inner city communities of returning parolees can breakdown the cohesion in socially disorganized communities…Moral authority is increasingly vested in “street smart” young men for whom drugs and crime are a way of life. Attitudes, behaviors and lessons learned in prison are transmitted to free society…as family caretakers and role models disappear or decline in influence and as unemployment and poverty become more persistent, the community, particularly its children, become more vulnerable to a variety of social ills, including crime, drugs, family disorganization, generalized demoralization, and unemployment” 7
  • 5. Why the Crisis…?
  • 6. Why the Crisis…?
  • 7. Why the Crisis…?
  • 8. Why the Crisis…?
  • 9. Two More Critical Factors…
    • From 1995 to 2001 the average time spent in prison rose by 30%
    • “ An examination in the rise in imprisonment from 1992 to 2001 concluded that the entire increase was as a result of changes in sentencing policy and practice.” (JC Karberg and AJ Beck, “Trends in U.S. Correctional Populations: Findings from the Bureau of Justice Statistics”, presented at the National Committee on Corrections, Washington DC, April 16, 2004.)
  • 10. Measuring the Impact…
    • States spent over $29 billion on Prison operation in 2001.
      • Does not count the cost of Law Enforcement, the Judicial system, and other hard and soft costs
    • This equates to a cost of $134. 00 annually to every single American
    • The average cost per inmate nationally is $22,650.00
  • 11. Measuring the Impact…
    • The social cost to communities, families and individual lives is literally incalculable!
  • 12. Discussion Points
    • National Response; .what’s driving it?
    • National Shape of Reentry
      • Presidential Notice- State of the Union in 2004 (Children of Incarcerated Parents) and 2005 (Prisoner Reentry)
      • 11/21/06 - Senate Moves Closer to Passing Second Chance Act On Thursday the Senate came closer to passing the Second Chance Act as members of Congress returned to Washington for the "lame duck" session to elect leadership for the newly controlled Democratic House and Senate. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) led the effort to queue up the measure for a vote. The renewed interest in the bill better positions the Second Chance Act for a vote in early December when Members return to work on the federal spending bills and other unfinished business. House leaders have committed to act on the legislation if the Senate is successful. If the bill is not passed during the lame duck session, bill sponsors plan to reintroduce the measure in the 110th Congress. The Second Chance Act is the first piece of comprehensive legislation to address multiple challenges related to the return of incarcerated persons from prisons to their communities. Despite the many partisan battles in the 109th Congress, particularly related to Judiciary issues, the Second Chance Act was authored with bipartisan cooperation in both chambers. The Second Chance Act is supported by over 200 organizations and enjoys broad bipartisan support, with 113 cosponsors in the House and 34 cosponsors in the Senate.
      • State Council of Governments-Formation of Reentry Councils in each state
      • www.ojp.usdoj.gov/reentry
  • 13. Discussion Points
    • Policy vs.. Programs
      • Are we treating the symptoms without addressing the root causes?
      • Sentencing Laws
      • Treatment vs. Incarceration,
      • Community Front End Investment
      • Housing Policy, Aid Policy, Educational Policy
      • Voting and Civil Rights…Double Jeopardy?
  • 14. Discussion Points
    • Programs as well as Policy
    • Transition vs. Reentry
    • Continuum of Care
    • Communities of Care
    • The Church’s Role
  • 15. The Prisoner & His Family The Church The Church P & P Issues Money Mgmt D & A Counseling Mental/ Physical Health Education Life Skills Employ-ment Personal/ Family Counseling Spiritual Growth Job Training Legal Issues Friends Time Mgmt Leisure Time Food Housing Clothing Released Inmate Travel/ Trans
  • 16. The Transformation…
    • Transformed mind: to believe as Jesus did
    • Transformed character: to live as Jesus did
    • Transformed relationships: to love as Jesus did
    • Transformed service: to minister as Jesus did
    • Transformed influence: to lead as Jesus did
    • Reconciliation with God and others
  • 17. Hidden Factors…New Paradigms to Explore
  • 18. Hidden Factors…New Paradigms to Explore
  • 19. “ Where there is no Vision, the people perish” William Edward Anderson President /CEO The Vision Catalyst Group 2040 S. Alma School Rd Suite #1-207 Chandler AZ 85286 (480) 899-9624 phone/fax [email_address] Executive Director Prison Fellowship Arizona [email_address]
  • 20. Footnotes and References
    • Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin Mid Year 1999
    • The Sentencing Project; “New Incarceration Figures: 33 Years of Consecutive Growth”, pg 3, 2005
    • TP Bonczar, Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report Prevalence of Imprisonment in the U.S. Population , 1974-2001 (Washington DC: 2003) NCJ 197976
    • Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, People of Color and the Prison Industrial Complex-Facts and Figures , 2006
    • American Indicators: Civil Liberties, Crime & Drugs Road signs compiled by the Progressive Review (2006)
    • PM Harrison and JC Karberg, Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin: Prison and Jail Inmates at Mid-Year 2002 , (Washington DC, April 2003), NCJ 198877
    • Elijah Anderson, sociologist, Streetwise: Race, Class and Change in an Urban Community , Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1990