There is a set of legal and social institutions for enforcing criminal law following a defined set of procedural rules and limitations in every country or state. Since time immemorial, people who defile these regulations must face justice under the law. Incarcerated people are in for a correction, and most of them feel stigmatized due to their actions. After they are released from prisons, some develop a negative attitude towards their society and feel like society cannot accommodate them. The society looks at people who were incarcerated as inferior and defined them in light of the worst things they have ever done. Society stigmatizes imprisoned people, which torments their will and obligation to show change and give back to the community what they lost during the incarceration period (Fund, Children’s Defense. 2007). Different faith-based organizations and churches have come up with strategies to restore dignity for the incarcerated people in the society. However, it has not been easy, and the church faces obstacles and challenges while working with youth, men, women, and families affected by criminal justice.
According to a survey conducted by a prison fellowship, about 700,000 people are released from prison. The sad reality is many of them aren’t any better than they first went to jail. This behavior change has dramatically affected the church’s involvement with such incarcerated individuals. Some become more violent, and others acquire other vices they didn’t possess before going to prison. Such occurrences poses a challenge to the churches while institutionalizing transition support to the inmates who leave prisons (Fund, Children’s Defense. 2007).
Lack of criminal justice support system
The church has a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to take seriously the pain and suffering of all the people regardless of their situations. According to Rev Jim Young of the center for family and community ministries, the church should develop a restorative justice team that ensures compassionate and knowledgeable ministry is provided to crime victims.
Misguided Criminal Justice Policy
Christians worldwide should emphasize the importance of proportionality in punishment, the possibility of redemption and transformation, and the necessity of pursuing justice that restores. The criminal laws should be evaluated and eliminated in cases where there is insufficient criminal intent. The church has a roll in reviewing laws that Frustrate the criminal justice victims and their families who cannot navigate these complex justice systems (Hendrichson et al., 2012).
Authors Moving Us beyond the More Populist Narrative of Black Males in Prison
Around five decades since African- Americans won their civil rights, hundreds of black people have lost their liberty. The US government has actively fueled the so called ‘black crime’ via policy decision during the so-called War on Crime and War on Drugs. The likely hood of a black man to spend time in prison at one point in his life is 1 in 3. This translated into about 40% of those incarcerated to be black people (Alexander, Michelle., 2010). In an attempt to criticize this outcome, scholars have long analyzed the connection between race and America’s criminal justice system. They argue that the growing penal system with its black tinge constitutes nothing less than a new form of Jim Crow analogy (Alexander, 2020). Crow’s analogy draws attention to black men’s plight, whose opportunities in life have been permanently diminished by the loss of citizenship rights and the stigma they suffer as convicts.
Authors have relentlessly critiqued the penal law of mass incarceration of black male offenders as a predicament of that era. Scholars have examined the collateral consequences of criminal convictions of black people, which seems to have adverse effects on their social life some; depending on the state of the offense, a black convict might become ineligible for health and welfare benefits, food stamps, public housing, student loans and certain types of employment (Alexander, 2020). This stigma increases their social and economic marginalization and encourages crime because more black males are in prison than the white male convicts.
Each and every year, millions of children and youth are exposed to violence in their homes, schools, and communities. These experiences expose them to mental health and substance use disorders, school failure, increased risk-taking, and delinquency (Ford et al., 2010). Majority of youth involved with the juvenile justice system experience traumatic events, with at least 75% having experienced traumatic victimization (Abraham et al., 2013). On the other hand, the church has a vital role in addressing trauma among incarcerated youths in various ways. The church can establish trauma-informed seminars to reach out to incarcerated youths and create awareness of the impacts of crime in the young generation.
The church also establishes social support groups where those affected by trauma can get counseling and emotional support in their communities through outreach programs. Incarcerated youths can be involved in positive engagements and meaningful activities e.g., education and skill-based training as an essential component of successful rehabilitation through the church’s support. The church can also address trauma in a culturally informed way by organizing effective screening and treatment camps, improving youth’s behavioral health outcomes, leading to less delinquency and substance use.
Case Western Reserve University. “Addressing trauma in juvenile offenders should be larger focus of rehabilitation, study finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 February, 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160203151625.htm>.
Abram, Karen M., et al. PTSD, trauma, and comorbid psychiatric disorders in detained youth. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2013.
Alexander, Michelle. The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. The New Press, 2020.
Henrichson, Christian, and Ruth Delaney. “The price of prisons: What incarceration costs taxpayers.” Federal Sentencing Reporter 25.1 (2012): 68-80.
Taifa, Nkechi. “Clemency: An Inside Story from a Progressive Advocate.” Fed. Sent’g Rep. 29 (2016): 234.
American Psychiatric Association, “Posttraumatic stress disorder. Arlington”, VA: Author.2013: 20-37
Fund, Children’s Defense. “Americas cradle to prison pipeline.” Washington, DC (2007).