Faith Statements on Restorative Justice
Progressive National Baptists
We believe the Scriptures teach that repentance and faith are sacred duties, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God; whereby being deeply convinced of our guilt, danger and helplessness and of the way of salvation by Christ, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession, and supplication for mercy; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as our prophet, priest and king, and relying on him alone as the only and all-sufficient Savior.
As Christians, we also recognize that each person is unique, is precious to God and has special needs and talents. This status does not change if a person has violated God’s law or human law. As followers of Christ we have been commanded to “bring release to the captives” (Luke 4:18). In so doing it is not enough simply to release persons from prison. We must also find ways in which their needs can be met and their talents developed and employed so that they can become full participants in society.
As Unitarian Universalists, we are committed to affirming the inherent goodness and worth of each of us. As Americans, we take pride in our constitutional promise of liberty, equality, and justice for all, including those who have violated the law. Yet the incarceration rate in the United States is five- to tenfold that of other nations, even those without such a constitutional promise. Our corrections system is increasingly rife with inequitable sentencing, longer terms of detention, racial and ethnic profiling, and deplorable jail and prison conditions and treatment.
Community alternatives should be developed in the context of redemptive, rehabilitative, and restorative justice. Redemptive justice recognizes justice as relational. Its purpose is to restore wholeness and rightness in the social order and in the disposition of the offender, not to exact revenge. Rehabilitative justice is a process of education, socialization, and empowerment of the person to the status whereby she or he may be able to contribute constructively and appreciably to society. Restorative justice is a process whereby the offender can reconcile with the victim through appropriate restitution, community service, and healing measures.
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA)
The ELCA supports positive trends for reform such as greater emphasis on victims’ rights and needs, use of restorative justice, community-based alternatives to incarceration, legislation that reduces sentences for certain offenses, the emergence of specialized courts, and the growing emphasis on reentry. These efforts should be funded and supported adequately. • Because mass incarceration causes significant harms, both personal and social, the ELCA strongly urges those who make and administer correctional policies to take all appropriate measures to limit the use of incarceration as a sanction for criminal offenses. Toward that end this statement identifies three specific paths: pursue alternatives to incarceration, reform sentencing laws and policies, and closely scrutinize national drug policy. • Four other imperatives also require vigorous action from policy makers: the criminal justice system must acknowledge the disparities, and address the implicit and explicit racism that persists within; it must recognize the special needs of juvenile offenders; it must stop the privatization of prison facilities; and finally, it must foster the full reintegration of ex-offenders into community. • A fundamental transformation of mindset about criminal justice is required that challenges the logic equating more punitive measures with more just ones. Individuals must be held accountable, but every person in the criminal justice system deserves to be seen and treated as a member of human communities, created in the image of God and worthy of appropriate and compassionate response.
Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, stated, “Just as God never abandons us, so too we must be in covenant with one another. We are all sinners, and our response to sin and failure should not be abandonment and despair, but rather justice, contrition, reparation, and return or re-integration of all into the community.”
United Methodists Church
In the love of Christ, who came to save those who are lost and vulnerable, we urge the creation of a genuinely new system for the care and restoration of victims, offenders, criminal justice officials, and the community as a whole. Restorative justice grows out of biblical authority, which emphasizes a right relationship with God, self, and community. When such relationships are violated or broken through crime, opportunities are created to make things right.
The United Church of Christ
The teachings of the Gospel particularly challenge us to engage these realities in ways that take us beyond the surface and into true encounter with Jesus. In Matthew we hear Jesus proclaiming, “When I was in prison, you visited me.” It is easy to glide past these words, but their import is powerful. “When I was in prison, you visited me.”
Disciples of Christ
We honor our heritage as a movement for Christian unity by cooperating and partnering with other faith communities to work for bringing about wholeness – healing and justice – in the world.
Christ calls us to turn a critical eye to a system that is at least partly responsible for the social, political, economic, moral, and spiritual conditions that make some of our members weak, threatened, helpless, sick, and tempted to antisocial behavior. It is the very society in which we live and which we have helped establish that creates the poor, weak, and oppressed whom God calls us to serve. We fail these members of our community when we let our governments assign prisoners to for-profit private prisons and only provide needed services and treatment programs after a person has committed a crime and is incarcerated.
Jewish Prisoner Services International – No religious group which takes its values seriously should rest content until (we) demand and get a system which will correct and not merely punish, rehabilitate and not debilitate, which will treat prisoners and not merely stigmatize them, which will regard them as human beings whom we must strive to restore to usefulness and not as open targets for social vengeance.
Rabbi Albert Vorspan, Great Jewish Debates and Dilemmas, p. 203
Church of the Brethren
Christ calls us to compassion, and if we ourselves want to avoid being criminal in our justice, we need to transform the mindset behind our system of mass incarceration. The first step is acknowledging the humanity of those who commit crimes, and offer solutions that are corrective and restorative, not just punitive. We must instill the values of compassion and grace into our corrective practices, for we believe in a merciful God that redeems.
Jesse Winter, Peacebuilding and Policy Associate
Office of Public Witness, Posted Oct. 2015
Mennonite Central Committee
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ” (Matthew 25:37-40)
Our faith calls on us to treat every person with dignity, including those in our prisons, halfway homes, and detention centers. Oftentimes, these are the individuals most in need of dignity and compassion. The prison system can be a painful and damaging process for an inmate and his or her family. Working with interfaith ministries and government officials, Episcopalians minister to inmates and their families, assist those on parole, and call for reform not only of the prison system but in the criminal system as well.
“But indeed if any show patience and forgive, that would truly be an exercise of courageous will and resolution in the conduct of affairs.”
Chapter 42, verse 43
Many Quakers have worked for reform of the criminal justice systems of their day. Quakers believe that people can always change: their focus has been on reforms that make positive change more likely, such as increased opportunities for education, improved prison conditions, help with facing up to violent impulses, and much else. Nowadays, restorative justice approaches are a central focus.