Criminal justice reform
As with other areas of Social Justice work we have been informed by input from researchers working in the field e.g. Michelle Alexander who wrote The New Jim Crow and activist groups who have hands on experience of the issues being addressed. Consequently we have had Susan Tordella of EMIT (End Mass Incarceration Together) offer a Meetinghouse Series Event, and are frequent attenders of meetings of ECCO the Essex County Community Organization.
As a result, members of the Social Justice Committee are convinced that the Criminal Justice system does not serve the public well. In particular, treatment of offenders effectively supports mass incarceration, especially of racial minorities, perpetuating a modern form of slavery. We have been working in three areas.
At the state level we have been actively supporting efforts at reforming the laws to, for example, reduce/eliminate mandatory minimums, increase funding for treatment programs, raise the dollar value for felony theft, etc. Because of the efforts of many people and groups, major reform was passed recently in Massachusetts.
We are especially active in promoting use of Restorative Justice (RJ) as one effective tool to improve outcomes. As a supportive member of ECCO, UUCM has been engaged in introducing RJ to the Lynn Police Force in hopes of using RJ as a diversion process, thereby averting jail time for low level offenders and decreasing the recidivism rate.
We are concerned about the tremendous power wielded by prosecutor’s offices with little if any oversight. Much more data is needed to enable voters to judge if their elected District Attorney is doing a good job in regards to more enlightened expectations. Accordingly, we have participated in CourtWatchMA.org.