African-American leaders urge Congress to reform criminal justice system

Bread staff member Diane Ford-Dessables at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference

By Bread Staff

Participants in the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference took part in some letter-writing advocacy to Congress during its annual meeting, which was held last month in Houston. They urged members of Congress to reform the country’s criminal justice system.

The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference is a leading social justice network for the African-American faith community. African-Americans are seven times more likely to be incarcerated as whites, contributing to high rates of hunger and poverty.

“When men and women are not home working for their families and when they can’t work after leaving prison, more children are at risk of suffering from hunger,” said Bread’s president, Rev. David Beckmann, who addressed the conference. “We need swift, bipartisan action to ensure that prison reform allows families to live free from poverty and hunger.”

Conference participants urged Congress to support and pass sentencing reform laws without further delay. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (SRCA), S. 2123, represents a major first step in serious criminal justice reform. If passed, it would place limits on mandatory minimum sentences, allowing more parents to support their families.

“Congress needs to pass comprehensive prison reform soon, because too many children are going hungry,” said Beckmann. “The letters to Congress from the Proctor Conference are an encouraging sign and are critical to keep the momentum to reform the criminal justice system.”

The U.S. is home to five percent of the world’s population but 20 percent of its prison population. The sharp rise in levels of incarceration in the U.S. since 1980 has contributed to the rise of hunger and food insecurity in the country.

Mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related offenses have left many parents behind bars, unable to provide food for their children. Those leaving prison also face difficulties in securing employment, further reducing their ability to keep their families from poverty and food insecurity.

The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference was named after Dr. Samuel DeWitt Proctor, former pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church of New York City and president of Virginia Union University.

Call (800/826-3688) or email your U.S. senators today and tell them to support the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S.2123).

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