Set Captives Free! Oklahoma prisons releasing 462 non-violent offenders
Is this what it means to work out Luke 4, “set the captives free”?
In my ongoing work with criminal justice reform and The Journey’s new partnership with ACTION, I view today’s action by Governor Stitt, to commute sentences of 462 inmates, the largest single prison sentence commutation in U.S. History, as a very positive movement of amnesty. I am involved in criminal justice reform because Oklahoma has a serious problem of over incarceration. If we incarcerated at the national rate, as Kansas does, we would save half a billion dollars. We would save families, release prisoners who could care for their children, spouses, neighbors, work, pay taxes, and have a better state. We are also addressing in our criminal justice reform work, the problem of disproportionate incarceration of people of color in the state of Oklahoma.
This is the largest single mass commutation of sentences in United States history. I agree that if we are going to make some drug possession charges misdemeanor and not felony, then those convicted on the same charges should be given amnesty. And “single largest” things like this must take place because Oklahoma is the single largest incarcerating state in the United States. And since the United States incarcerates more people than anywhere in the world, this makes Oklahoma the epicenter of incarceration in the world. I believe we ought to consider that locking people up does not make our state better, safer, but puts resources into diminishing the lives of prisoners and their families and does not necessarily make the state safer or better.
Yes, I believe this commutation is one way to live out the call of Jesus to “set captives free.” Criminal justice reform is one way I believe we can be practically involved in the work of Jesus proclaimed in Luke 4. Many churches do prison ministry, and we should! But if you’d like to join The Journey in criminal justice reform, you can join folks who believe an even greater way to help prisoners is to help them get out of prison by reforming policies and laws.
So, if you want to learn more about these kinds of actions, come to the ACTION meeting at The Journey Outpost (3171 S 129th East Ave) Tuesday, 7-8:30 pm.
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