Putting Prisons on the Moral Agenda

July 24, 2012

Former President Jimmy Carter recently urged Baptists and other Christians to make prison reform a key moral issue. Ethics Daily reported on his comments which he made for a documentary on prison reform that Ethics Daily is creating to coincide with the New Baptist Covenant meeting in 2014. Carter said:

I think of all the several facets describing Jesus in Luke 4 about his own moral agenda, the one we have neglected most, and violated most, is the release of the captives, that is prisoners. ... Unfortunately, led by some Christian leaders, our country has gone from a basic philosophy of rehabilitation of a prisoner to a punishment only – and the more severe and extended the punishment. ... And this has resulted in the massive increase in America exclusively of the number of people serving prison sentences.
Carter particularly linked the issue to ongoing efforts to promote racial justice:
I think one of the things the New Baptist Covenant can do – and any other Christian, who thinks about the teachings of Christ – is to reduce the punishment and emphasize the rehabilitation and forgiveness and love that we need to extend to people in prison. ... When the black Baptist leaders speak out and say what do Baptists need to do, the main issue they have brought out is we need to do something about the abuse of people in prison who happen to be African-American or other minorities or mentally ill. ... They have convinced me at least that this is maybe the most vivid remaining demonstration or essence of racism.
Amen! Hopefully Carter's words and the forthcoming documentary will spark more discussions and actions toward meaningful prison reform.