Congregations and pastors can’t endorse candidates, but we can promote ballot issues. I’m writing to express my strong support of Issue 1: The Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Amendment.
One of the recent book studies during Adult Christian Education at CMC was Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. She names mass incarceration as the “new” form of racialized law enforcement, and traces this back to the War on Drugs, begun in the early 70’s.
Currently in Ohio, there are around 50,000 people behind bars, many for minor drug offenses, putting our prisons at 132% capacity, and costing Ohio taxpayers $26,000 per incarcerated person per year. There has to be another way.
Mennonite ethicists emphasize that true justice is restorative, and not just punitive. At its heart, Issue 1 seeks to shift public resources toward drug treatment and rehabilitation, and away from incarceration – in order to restore lives. It will reduce 4th and 5th degree drug possession charges from a felony to a misdemeanor. Money that would have gone toward keeping nonviolent drug offenders in prison will be reallocated toward recovery, estimated to be up to $100,000,000 just in the first year. Violent crime and drug trafficking are still subject to imprisonment, so judicial discretion is not threatened in these cases.
This is a justice issue, and it’s also a pastoral care issue. When people are incarcerated it separates and strains families. It negatively impacts future possibilities with work and housing.
One downside is that this is a Constitutional Amendment. Unfortunately, lawmakers have had 40+ years to propose an alternative to the War on Drugs, and they haven’t done it. This amendment is on the ballot because 730,00 Ohioans signed a petition, (only 305,000 were needed) saying this was important to them.
If you’ve not yet seen it, HERE is the certified ballot language for Issue 1.
I’m hopeful that Ohio can be a model state for having a justice system that is restorative, and not just a legal system that is punitive and disproportionately so to people of color.
Mark’s sermon discussing a theology of disability, “What do you want me to do?” is posted HERE.