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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Faith & criminal justice

Task force members share their hopes

Lutherans have until Oct. 31 to offer comments and concerns about a draft ELCA social statement on criminal justice, set to be considered by the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. So just who is listening to and reading those responses? A 17-member task force, that's who. Here, several of those members share their work and hopes with readers of The Lutheran.

Sue Genrich Berry, Kure Memorial Lutheran Church, Kure Beach, N.C.: I've been a criminal defense attorney for 33 years, primarily representing indigent defendants. I hope for thoughtful consideration and discussion of important social issues that affect all of us, whether or not we have dealings in the criminal justice system. ... This can be a learning experience.

Nancy M. Reed, St. Mark Lutheran Church, Luray, Va.: I'm a private practice attorney and substitute judge. I was a prosecutor for more than 20 years. I hope this draft social statement will give the church a framework for advocating for a transformation in thinking about the criminal justice system, which will result in fundamental changes in the pervasive view that equates punishment with justice.

Until our thinking about criminal justice changes, reforms will continue to be piecemeal and economically driven. 

Anamaria Schmid, Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Ojai, Calif.: I was the victim of a violent crime. My hope is that the criminal justice statement will inspire people to get involved, whether it's to engage politically to demand reform or to help those impacted by crime.

Daniel Joy, New Hope Lutheran Church, Queens, N.Y.: I'm a retired New York State Supreme Court Justice. I served on the bench for 17 years. I hope this draft statement will inspire Lutheran congregations and community activists. ... It would be good to see more ELCA members delving into our national drug policy, pressing for changes in laws and better enforcement, and mentoring young people.

We need to talk about the disproportionate impact on African-American people at every stage, and the way police sweep neighborhoods that are predominantly black and attorneys over-indict.


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