Following the Churchwide Assembly in Pittsburgh this past summer Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministry (LOGM) in New Jersey is witnessing the Spirit move in our midst. Our state legislature and governor are ready to act on criminal justice reform, as so are we. After the wider church agreed to its newest Social Statement, “The Church and Criminal Justice: Hearing the Cries” we set out visiting congregations and communities hearing about the need for reform in the criminal justice system in NJ specifically in the areas of Bail and Sentencing reform, and Parole/ Re-entry issues among others. At the same time our elected officials were doing similar listening. Now legislation is moving! LOGM is supporting several bills and engaging congregations to assist these "grass roots ideas" to more through both houses, and onto the governor's desk to be made into law.
Through this Social Statement we are reminded that, “Individuals must be held accountable, but every person in the criminal justice system deserves to be seen and treated as a member of human communities, created in the image of God and worthy of appropriate and compassionate response. “
To this end, we are advocating for passage of the Presumptive Parole Act, which would allow for the release of certain nonviolent offenders upon their first parole eligibility Senate (Bill 677), We are also advocating for Senate Bill 947/Assembly Bill 1910 which would restructure our bail system so that people are not held behind bars while awaiting trail simply because they cannot afford to pay for their release. We are also working on a bill known as “The Opportunity to Compete Act” which would end the practice of asking on the front page of a job application if the applicant had ever been convicted of a crime, even before they had an interview for the job.
These are not bills that are soft of crime, they are rather more just administration of the law so that we can reduce the number of persons held prison in our state. Once released exoffenders must be able to get a job and rebuild their lives with hope for a brighter future for themselves and for our communities.
“For what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
Want to learn more about the Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministry in New Jersey? Check them out on facebook (www.facebook.com/logmnj).