Over the past few years, the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference (SDPC) has been working in partnership with various organizations and faith communities to create awareness around dismantling the oppressive nature of mass incarceration and connect it to a larger human rights framework. The unique role of faith communities in social movement building revolves around the intersection of what people believe about their moral and spiritual agency to create change in their social conditions.
The United States only makes up 5% of the world’s population, but yet is responsible for 25% of the world’s prison population and 2.3 million people are in prisons and jails and there are some 7 million persons on probation and parole. The War on Drugs has fundamentally shaped who we are as a society by incarcerating over 45 million people for drug offenses and spending over one trillion dollars rather then utilizing the money for more long term benefits for our communities.
SDPC strongly supports and advocates for the reform of mandatory minimum sentences, we believe such reform is necessary for the movement forward to a more just and humane criminal justice system. SDPC has long been concerned about the disparate impact of mandatory minimum sentencing policies, such as crack cocaine and powder cocaine disparities, and we have long advocated for policies that end racial disparities in our criminal justice system.
SDPC most recently released a report entitled Bearing Witness: A Nation in Chains. After 69 hours of video and 2,591 hours of transcribed interviews we have been able to hear from those most affected by mass incarceration. Bearing Witness: A Nation in Chains is a report not to the Black church, but to the entire nation because America’s unfulfilled promises of a democracy cannot be realized without addressing the realities of mass incarceration and what is happening in the nation’s prisons.
This deep moral crisis cannot be fully understood or strategically addressed if we don’t account for the intersectionality of all the forces which make up the system of mass incarceration and the collateral consequences upon families, communities and people of color. Not only must we strategically address the specific policy questions surrounding various issues from school-to-prison pipeline, torture, voter disenfranchisement, arbitrary sentencing, etc., we must also prioritize and be guided by the imperative of building a new moral order that is reflected in a transformation of core societal values. It is the belief of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference that mass incarceration sets before us a Kairos moment an opportunity to heal the soul of America and confront unresolved issues of race and human rights.
War on Drugs “Just Say No” Video
The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference has been working closely with Eugene Jarecki, who is the producer of the documentary, The House I Live In. Mr. Jarecki being moved by the evidence he found in producing the documentary, has stated that “America is in search of its soul.” Today, Mr. Jarecki and his team released the Just Say No…To The War on Drugs campaign in support of the Smarter Sentencing Act. Mr. Jarecki has understood and studied deeply the crisis of this nation and has committed to be more then a movie maker, but a movement maker.
Today we ask that you join Mr. Jarecki, the Samuel DeWitt DeWitt Proctor Conference, Drug Policy Alliance, The Sentencing Project and a host of other various partner organizations in calling on Congress to pass the Smarter Sentencing Act. In April, SDPC submitted a letter to Congress supporting the Smarter Sentencing Act. Please submit your letter to Congress, let us use our voices and moral authority to do what is right and just.