The Center for Church and Prison, Inc. was started in 2009 in Boston. Its fundamental passion is to serve as a resource center for faith-based and non-faith-based organizations, academic institutions and individuals seeking more information and awareness regarding the phenomena of mass incarceration in the United States penal system and its collateral consequences.
The United States has 5% of the worlds population but 25% of the worlds incarcerated population. There are over 2.3 million individuals locked up in jails and prisons across the United States with over 6.5 million on probation, parole, or under some form of correctional supervision across the United States. Over 20 million are affected by the American penal system in their post-prison lives as felons or convicts systematically barred from jobs (especially federal jobs), housing, voting and other democratically sanctioned rights of citizenship solely because of their conviction records.
The racial disparity associated with the American criminal justice system is historical with its influences reflected in the American socio-political, economic and religious consciousness. Blacks are 13% of the United States general population but over 40% of those under correctional supervision in the American criminal justice system. While poor Whites and Hispanics face higher rates of incarceration, Blacks are overwhelmingly incarcerated because of the racial heritage and consciousness influencing Americas socio-political, economic and religious psyche. Gender wise, mass incarceration in the United States has largely affected Black men and youth with those between the ages of 20 and 35 making up the largest group of those incarcerated including Whites, Blacks and Hispanic youths, men, women.
The collateral consequence of mass incarceration in the United States is reflected in the development of dysfunctional family structures and its breakdown, various forms of concentrated poverty and generational impoverishment, increase in mental illness, suicide, aging, in-prison death, and economic and sociopolitical marginalization and exclusion from mainstream America. It is in light of the above that we were moved to start The Center for Church and Prison, Inc.
To further our goals, in:
- We hosted our first conference: 2012 Strategic National Conference on Mass Incarceration and Reentry. Keynote speaker was Michelle Alexander, author of the book: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. It was held at Boston University from October 18-20 with other phenomenal speakers from across the country.
- Our second conference: 2013 Strategic National Conference on Mass Incarceration and the War on Drugs was held from October 3-5 at Boston University School of Law. Speakers include: Activists and Comedian: Dick Gregory, Dr. Boyce Watkins of Your Black World, Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, JD. of: The Drug Policy Alliance, Dr. Umar Johnson, Mr. Neil Franklin of: Law Enforcement Against Drug Prohibition, Dr. Stephanie Bush-Baskette: author-Misguided Justice: The War on Drugs and Incarceration of Black Women, and Dr. Erika Kates: Wellesley Centers for Women. The keynote speaker was Douglas Blackmon: Author-Slavery By Another Name: The Reenslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II.
- In 2014, we hosted two strategic conferences to target specific individuals and groups in the struggle against mass incarceration: 2014 Clergy and Religious Leaders’ Conference on Mass Incarceration under the theme: Proactive Engagement and Criminal Justice Reform-The Voice of Religion. May 1 to the May 3 in Boston. Keynote speakers included: The Honorable Rev. Dr. Floyd Flake of Greater Allan AME Cathedral of New York, the Rev. Dr. Harold Trulear of Howard University, and the Rev. Dr. Virgil Wood.:
- 2014 Conference on Holistic Approach to Wellness for Returning Citizens and Community Revitalization under the theme: Information, Inspiration, and Resource Availability: Forward Ever, Backward Never]
- 2015 we hosted a special gathering on Mass Incarceration and the School to Prison Pipeline in Boston
Programs and Services
- Public policy and Advocacy on the Legislative Level: Influencing and transforming public policy, legislation regarding sentencing and prison reform. We have submitted the following documents regarding prison reform on the legislative level:
- Draft Resolution to end Prison-based gerrymandering in the State of Massachusetts,e. the counting of prisoners as residents of their incarcerated communities rather than their original communities. The immediate implications of prison-based gerrymandering are the shifting of political and economic power to the inmate’s incarcerated communities in the census and the redistricting process in Massachusetts. The Center for Church and Prison has presented a draft resolution to end prison-based gerrymandering to Representative Linda Dorcina-Forry of the Massachusetts senate.
- Draft bill for Job Creation for Individuals with CORI: we are presently working with Senator Stan Rosenbergs office. When the CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) bill was passed in 2010, there was no provision made in the CORI reform bill for job creation for individuals with CORI. Our draft bill advances the claim that creation of opportunities for individuals with CORI to experience economic mobility has immense potential in reducing crime. Thus a pivotal component to community revitalization and public safety.
- Advocacy Against “Habitual Offender”/”Three-Strikes-You’re Out” Bills in Massachusetts: Senate Bill: 2080, House Bill: 3818, Governor’s Bills: H40 & H3441. Prior to November 10th of 2012 when the Senate of Massachusetts voted unanimously to pass the Habitual Offender bill, The Center for Church and Prison provided a written opposition to the bill and conducted a rally on the steps of the Massachusetts State House on November 10th to register its opposition. Since then, The Center for Church and Prison has been involved in several rallies, direct visits to the offices of Massachusetts States legislators to express its opposition, direct mailing campaign through its weekly newsletter to create public awareness, and public forums to highlight community awareness about the precarious nature of the Massachusetts Three-Strikes You’re Out bill and its long-term negative implications on communities of color who make up more than 55% of those in Massachusetts prisons but are less than 17% of the entire population of the State of Massachusetts.
- Public forum: As part of our advocacy work, The Center for Church and Prison Conducts public forum where experts, lawyers, prison reform activists and the community are brought together to discuss issues regarding prison reform, education and community revitalization.
- First major public forum was held on Thursday September 30th in 2010 at The Anthony Perkins Community Center in Dorchester. The topic was: Back in the Hood: Re-entry and the Reduction of Recidivism in Suffolk County. The keynote speaker was Sheriff Andrea J. Cabral.
- Second major public forum was held on June 21st 2011 at the Mattapan Library in Mattapan. The topic was: “Counting Inmates in the Wrong Place: Blacks Losing Power. Panelists included Senator Stan Rosenberg and Representative Michael Moran, both co-chair of the Massachusetts Redistricting Committee.
- Since then, The Center for Church and Prison has conducted several public forums and meetings to highlight the need for more strategic intervention in the high rate of incarceration and recidivism affecting communities of color and their long-term negative implications and consequences.
- Job and Resource Fair for Individuals with CORI: Making Money Beyond CORI: As part of our focus on community revitalization through economic empowerment for individuals with conviction records, The Center for Church and Prison conducts two annual job and resource fairs for individuals with CORI. Providing employment possibilities through referrals and recommendation for former prisoners.
- First Job and Resource Fair: 19th 2011: at the Anthony Perkins Community Center in Dorchester. We had close to 750 individuals. Survey forms were filled, resume and sign in sheets were collected to compile data and to do follow –up as well.
- Second Job and Resource Fair: Sept. 15th at the Reggie Lewis Center’s gym in Roxbury. We had close to 500 individuals in attendance.
Measurable outcomes from these gatherings are reflected in the increased awareness about mass incarceration and its implications on families, community security, emotional wellness, and economic mobility. In addition, there has been an increase in solution development regarding decline in crime and prevention, direct intervention on the part of religious organizations and individuals in helping formerly incarcerated individuals towards economic empowerment and emotional stability. All of our conferences and gatherings have been followed-up with post-conference dialogue sessions, strategic public forums and legislative engagements.