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On January 14, about 30 members and ministers within the Reformed Church in America gathered at the Mott Haven Reformed Church in the Bronx, NY, for a learning community event on mass incarceration. The General Synod of the RCA passed a recommendation in 2016 calling for a “meeting of people interested in the study and work of mass incarceration as the beginning of a learning community” (R 16-45) with the recognition that “efforts need to be focused at the local church and classis level.” This event in the Regional Synod of New York was announced as a “Faith Call to End Mass Incarceration.”
Participants heard a presentation on the history of policies and laws that led to mass incarceration, heard three testimonies by formerly incarcerated men and women, heard a report on current legislation and policies before the NYS legislature, were given information on how suburban congregations are connecting with prisons and were presented with ideas on how the church can be involved. The session ended with a call to action, affording each one an opportunity to seriously consider how they can carry forward some activity that would raise awareness or deal directly with the ending of mass incarceration.
A substantial bibliography was distributed and attention drawn to the resources available on www.rca.org/resources/advocacy/resources-related- mass-incarceration. The RCA’s Mass Incarceration Coalition recommends Michelle Alexander’s seminal work The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.
A Gathering on Mass Incarceration is planned by the RCA for March 10-11, 2017 at the Hilton Garden Inn, Des Plaines, Illinois. Information is available on the RCA website.