Click here to find today’s reflection on Incarceration Justice, as well as a downloadable PDF of all the daily reflections in this 2021 Lenten Mite Box project. The messages will also appear in the daily email update from St. Mark’s throughout Lent. If you don’t currently receive daily emails and would like to, you may sign up here.
Daily reflections will be added each day during Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday, February 17. For a full list of all daily reflections, download the printable PDF here.
Wednesday, March 3 – DC Jail Statistics
DC’s Department of Corrections runs several detention facilities for those who are awaiting trial, serving a sentence for a misdemeanor, or awaiting transfer to a federal prison for a felony. The primary facility for men is the Central Detention Facility at 1901 D St. SE. On Oct 1. 2020, it housed 1079 men, of which 90.4% were Black, compared to 46.4% in the District’s population. Latinos made up the next largest group at 5.3%, against an overall percentage of 11.3%. There are many questions we can explore about this population: their ages, education levels, defenses, crimes, and employment opportunities when released, etc. Think about your questions and what you would like to know more about. Put a quarter for each question your family might have in your mite box. –Contributed by Susan Sedgewick
Source: DC Department of Corrections Facts and Figures Oct. 2020: https://doc.dc.gov/publication/dc-department-corrections-facts-and-figures-october-2020
Tuesday, March 2 – Solitary Confinement
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, people on death row in the United States spend most of their days in solitary confinement sometimes with only two hours of contact with other humans. According to the ACLU, “researchers have found that the clinical effects of extreme isolation can actually be similar to those of physical torture,” which led the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to call “for a global ban on solitary confinement in excess of 15 days.” Because the appeals process can take years to exhaust, the ACLU calls solitary confinement on death row a “double punishment” because it causes needless and devastating suffering while prisoners pursue lawful challenges to their sentences. How many hours each day do you have some form of human contact? Put a dime in the mite box for each hour. –Contributed by Jason Horrell
Monday, March 1 – Private Prisons
The Department of Justice will not renew existing contracts with private prison companies, following an executive action signed by President Biden on Jan. 27. However, the federal government is not the only government actor in the private prison industrial complex. According to the Sentencing Project, more than half of the states use private prisons, and “[e]ighteen states with private prison contracts incarcerate more than 500 people in for-profit prisons.” Montana and New Mexico both incarcerate more than 30% of their prison population in for-profit prisons. There are many questions about why private prisons exist and their role in the criminal justice system; put a quarter in the mite box for each question you have. –Contributed by Jason Horrell
Sunday, February 28 – Third week of Lent
Faith Perspective: The American Prison System
In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander explains how the prison system in America has legalized discrimination against African Americans (and other people of color): “Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination, employment, discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity…are suddenly legal.” The acts of mercy that Christians are called to practice come from Jesus’ injunctions to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the imprisoned, comfort the afflicted, because in so doing we’re showing kindness to God in the world. (Matthew 25) Whatever we do for one of our brothers and sisters in need, we do for Christ. Following Jesus means taking care of one another. By helping returning citizens who have to start from scratch and face discrimination at every level we’re doing God’s work in the world. Let’s support the Lenten Mite Box. –Contributed by Patricia Catalano
Saturday, February 27 – Case Study of Massachusetts Juvenile Incarceration Costs
The absence of Restorative Justice: A Black adolescent drug addict was given a double life sentence for robberies and sexual assault in 1975 Boston. He was represented by a Public Defender, his accomplice turned state’s witness, and no jury. It was the era of racial tension about busing, but could be today. Given the double life sentence, he would die in prison. A George Washington University professor described this youth as emotionally disordered with addiction disorder and school failure. Dr. Karen Ihrig (George Washington University professor of special education) noted restorative justice intervention with mental health, addiction treatment and educational services could have prevented the draconian double life sentence. He was released in 2005 due to the intervention by a victim witness assistance program, advocacy on the part of the District Attorney and a judge’s review of the case. Drop a coin in your mite box for each year he was in prison. –Contributed by Mary Neznek
Friday, February 26 – Restorative Justice
Restorative Justice is an effective alternative to prison to repair harm to individuals and the community from crime. Pioneered by Mennonite practitioner Dr. Howard Zehr, a person or organization takes responsibility for those harmed. Facilitated meetings between the victim, offender, and community memberbuild consensus about repairing harm, allowing a victim to face the offender and to tell how they were impacted. The perpetrator is held responsible and compensates a victim in a tangible way determined by the victim in community, rather than using prison to punish. In the breach of the US Capitol, for example, a formula of community service and mental health intervention; money could be paid to victims with a facilitation between those responsible to make amends to those harmed. –Contributed by Mary Neznek
Thursday, February 25 – Youth Sentenced as Adults
Juvenile courts provide services that focus on childhood development, education, and rehabilitation. Most states make juvenile courts available up to age 17, but some limit them to age 16, and two states to age 15. During the 1990s, states passed laws to allow courts to prosecute children in adult court. Data from 15 states found that 82% who were convicted in adult courts committed another crime following their release. This rate is 16% higher than adults. Supreme Court decisions since 2005 placed limits on youth death sentences, mandatory sentencing, and life imprisonment, and the 2018 Juvenile Justice Reform Act set federal standards for trying youth as adults. Such reforms help protect youth from violence and life imprisonment. Put a quarter in your mite box for each person under 18 in your life who should be treated as someone in development.
–Contributed by Suanna Steeby Bruinooge
Sources: American Bar Assn “Should Juveniles be Treated as Adults” 2016: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/litigation/committees/childrens-
Pulitzer Center “Children are Different” 2019: https://pulitzercenter.org/blog/children-are-different-sentencing-juveniles-adults
Wednesday, February 24 – Death Penalty
While death penalty sentences and the number of executions have declined since the late 1990s, the racist use of the death penalty continues. As of October 2020, more than 2,500 people were on U.S. death row. A disproportionate percentage of them are Black (41%) compared with their percentage in the U.S. (13%). According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the death penalty is significantly more likely to be imposed if the murder victim is White, especially if the defendant is Black. Wrongful convictions are also more likely among defendants who are Black. The Innocence Project has recorded 21 cases where DNA evidence has been used to free people who were sentenced to death. Put a quarter in your mite box for each of these 21 people who should not have been on death row. –Contributed by Suanna Steeby Bruinooge
(Death Penalty Information Center, Enduring Injustice, September 2020)
Tuesday, February 23 – Eliminating Cash Bail
In effect, the cash bail system criminalizes poverty, as people who are unable to afford bail are detained while they await trial for weeks or even months. Cash bail perpetuates inequities in the justice system that are disproportionately felt by communities of color and those experiencing poverty. Spending even a few days in jail can result in people losing their job, housing, and even custody of their children. Studies show that pretrial detention can actually increase a person’s likelihood of rearrest upon release, perpetuating a cycle of arrest and incarceration. What is more, the cash bail system often leads to the detention of people who do not pose a threat to public safety. Knowing that the Mite Box will be here daily (except Sundays) through Lent – put whatever amount into your Mite Box that you can afford today. –Contributed by Kit Arrington
Monday, February 22 – Decriminalizing Mental Illness
- 1 in 4 people who die in officer-involved shootings are in a mental health crisis.
- Approximately 17% of U.S. jail inmates have serious mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The United States criminal justice system has seen exponential growth in costs related to the incarceration of persons with mental illness. Resources for jails, prisons, and state hospital are insufficient to adequately treat the number of individuals cycling through their system. Reversing the cycle of criminalization of mental illness is a complicated process, but mental health diversion programs across the nation are uniquely positioned to do just that. Not only are these programs providing humane treatment to individuals within the community and breaking the cycle of recidivism, the potential fiscal savings are over $1 billion. Put 25 cents in your mite box for everyone in your family who has received mental health support. –Contributed by Kit Arrington
Sunday, February 20 – Second week of Lent
Faith Perspective: Critical Issues
Subjects including death penalty, covid, solitary confinement, youth sentenced as adults, racial disparity, etc.
In 2019, Bryan Stevenson described a client’s experience at “Angola,” the Louisiana State Penitentiary named for the plantation whose land it now occupies. According to Stevenson, inmates there “worked in fields under the supervision of horse-riding, shotgun-toting guards who forced them to pick crops, including cotton. Their disciplinary records show that if they refused to pick cotton – or failed to pick it fast enough – they could be punished with time in “the hole,” where food was restricted and inmates were sometimes tear-gassed.” If this sounds like slavery by another name, Stevenson agrees: “mass incarceration and excessive punishment is the legacy of slavery.” Repeat offender laws put non-violent offenders (usually black men) in prison for life for marijuana possession or not checking in with a parole officer. And, in states like my home state of Alabama, which used incarcerated bodies for manual labor as recently as 1996, the slave economy has simply taken on another name – the prison economy. Just this month, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed three no-bid contracts to pay private companies to run three private prisons in the state for over $96 million a year for 30 years. What might restorative justice look like for those trapped in a prison economy, if that $3.7 billion budget was redirected? And, what is our responsibility for naming this sin? –Contributed by Joe Hubbard
Saturday, February 20 – Alisa Earnest and St. Mark’s Part 1
From parishioner Lynda Smith-Bugge: “You may remember the tragic events surrounding my grandson’s suicide. He was ensnared in a sting operation by a sheriff’s deputy impersonating a young woman interested in romance. In support, parishioners raised over $25,000 for legal defense, visited him in remote Virginia prisons, and sent books and letters. Fifteen St. Marksers showed up for Andrew’s hearing, and the lawyer said this solidarity made an impression on the judge, who ultimately reduced the sentence from 23 years to 11 years. His final art reflects his thoughtfulness and internal struggle in prison. He was a generous, passionate and inventive human being. His death, sting operation, and unyielding justice system are all parts of an ongoing tragedy. Who has shown up for you when you most needed support? Contribute $1 for each. –Contributed by Lynda Smith-Bugge and Christoph Berendes
Read more about Alisa Earnest & St Mark’s background at http://bit.ly/ae-stmarks-2021
See his artwork at https://www.dropbox.com/s/psv9palonn00d5z/AE%20art.jpg?dl=0
Friday, February 19 – Trends in the U.S. Prison Population
As our country grapples with systemic racism, race and ethnicity cannot be ignored when looking at arrests in the U.S. In 2018, black people were 13% of the U.S. population, yet they were overrepresented among persons arrested for nonfatal violent crimes and serious nonfatal violent crimes (36%). Hispanics, regardless of their race, were 18% of the U.S. population, yet they were overrepresented among persons arrested for nonfatal violent crimes excluding other assaults (21%). White people, on the other hand, accounted for 60% of U.S. population, but 46% of all persons arrested for serious nonfatal violent crimes, and 39% for nonfatal violent crimes excluding other assaults. Serious nonfatal violent crimes include rape, robbery, and aggravated assault and exclude other assault. Make a contribution to your Mite Box, if the past year’s Black Lives Matter movement made you more aware of systemic racism in our country. –Contributed by Suzanne Wells
Thursday, February 18 – Trends in the U.S. Prison Population
The next time you sing the Star-Spangled Banner, and say the words “land of the free,” think about this: The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. The U.S. is home to less than 5% of the world’s population, yet we incarcerate more than 20% of the world’s prison population. Up until the 1970s, the U.S. prison population remained relatively steady. Since 1970, the U.S. prison population has increased 700%. Tough on crime policies such as the War on Drugs, mandatory sentences, and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 have led to dramatic increases in the prison population. Make a contribution to your Mite Box if you were aware of these three policies, but never realized the impact they each had on the U.S. prison population.
–Contributed by Suzanne Wells
Week of February 14
Introduction to Incarceration Justice Ministry
February 17, Ash Wednesday –Why are the people of St. Mark’s called to Incarceration work? One way that we gather is to pour our lives through scripture. We have the biblical belief that all people are made in God’s image with inherent dignity and potential. Our work with prisoners takes a restorative approach to those affected by crime and incarceration. We believe that our work heals broken people and systems. Working with Prisoners helps us realize the cost on all of our humanity. We seek to replace the cycle of crime and incarceration. We use the Lenten Mite box to engaging with God’s call to “remember those in prison,” caring for those incarcerated, and creating safer communities both behind and beyond the walls. Please sign up and use the daily readings to do what we are called to do, heal the world and see the face of God in everyone. Thanks, Michele