Religious leaders release Easter statement to end war on drugs and mass incarceration

by Toya Richards Jackson

LOUISVILLE (PNS) A coalition of Christian leaders that includes the Reverend Robina Winbush of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has released a statement tied to Easter calling for the end of the war on drugs and mass incarceration.

“The ministry of Jesus the Christ was about challenging unjust systems that held individuals and marginalized communities in bondage,” says Winbush, the PC(USA)’s Associate for Ecumenical Relations and President of Churches Uniting In Christ. “He empowered his disciples to touch lives and tear down strongholds of captivity. He commissioned them to care for the most vulnerable in society and give witness to the reign of God marked by justice.”

The statement seeks to:

  • Repeal laws that criminalize drug possession and replace them with policies that expand access to effective health approaches to drug use, including evidence-based drug treatment;
  • Eliminate policies that result in racially disproportionate arrest and incarceration rates; and
  • End policies that unjustly exclude people with a record of arrest or conviction from key rights and opportunities.

“As faith organizations and religious leaders, we are committed to bettering the lives and realizing the human potential of society’s most vulnerable individuals and communities,” the statement says. “More and more, this means addressing the consequences of mass incarceration and preventing those to come – and thus healing the many wounds of our nation’s misguided war on drugs.”

“When it comes to drugs, we should focus on the goals we agree on: protecting our kids, protecting public safety, and preventing and treating drug abuse and addiction,” the statement goes on to say. “We join together to ask you to repeal policies that unnecessarily criminalize millions of people and place a vastly disproportionate burden on poor and black communities – and to replace those policies with just, effective and evidence-based approaches.”

The Christian leaders chose the Easter season to release their statement because of the spirit of the resurrection, which Easter commemorates and celebrates.

“We are guided by our religious principles to serve those in need and give voice to those who have been marginalized and stigmatized by unjust policies,” says the Reverend Edwin Sanders, a board member of the Drug Policy Alliance and the Senior Servant for the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville, Tenn. “We cannot sit silently while a misguided war is waged on entire communities, ostensibly under the guise of combating the very real harms of drug abuse. The war on drugs has become a costly, ineffective and unjust failure.”

Others joining in the statement’s release are:

  • Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, Founder and Executive Director of The Ordinary Peoples Society, Dothan, Ala.
  • The Reverend Michael McBride, Director of Urban Strategies, Lifelines to Healing, Berkeley, Calif.
  • Bill Mefford, Director of Civil and Human Rights, The United Methodist Church
  • The Reverend Dr. Madeline McClenney–Sadler, Exodus Foundation, Huntersville, N.C.
  • Rev. John E. Jackson, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Chicago