Around this time last year, I was digging into research about how the U.S. prison system — penitentiaries, literally, places to be penitent — began with a group of mostly Quaker reformers who wanted to end corporal punishment. As an alternative, these reformers proposed confining prisoners to a cell interspersed with manual labor, a practice borrowed from a monastic technique for reforming wayward monks. I then researched how activists and experts today, including people of faith, are working to reform our justice system by electing new district attorneys, ending racist sentencing laws, and championing social programs that address the roots of crime. I also learned about a group of more radical activists — abolitionists — who believed reforms weren’t enough; the only way to fix the penal system, abolitionists maintained, was to end it and completely reimagine what “justice” requires. While I shared abolitionists’ analysis of just how deeply broken our justice system was, I confess I thought it’d be a stretch to get most folks to take abolition seriously.
Then the pandemic hit and I watched in real time as the conversation around policing and prisons changed. Concerned about the rapid spread of coronavirus behind bars, states passed bills allowing for the early release of prisoners — previously unthinkable. By June, “abolition” was not a fringe movement, but a major news story; across the country people carried signs showing their support for policies that would “abolish” and “defund” the police.
The writers below explore some of the other surprising changes we’ve seen in the past year. As Rachel Cohen writes: “The arrival of the coronavirus, along with the wide-scale economic shutdowns to slow its spread, forced American policymakers to admit that a new world wasn’t just possible — it was necessary.”
1. Does Progressive Christian Financial Advice Exist?
For Christians who reject Dave Ramsey’s financial advice and the theology that supports it, it’s not always clear where to find alternatives. By Mitchell Atencio via sojo.net.
2. Meet the Climate Kids Who Are Mobilizing a Generation of Parents
Across the country and the world, children are waking moms and dads to the urgent need to take climate action. By Angely Mercado via The Nation.
3. One Year into This Pandemic, Women Still Bear the Brunt
As we enter year two of this pandemic in the middle of Women’s History Month, we must reckon with the fact that women have disproportionately felt the negative impacts; the fallout of this inequity will be felt for years to come. By Paola Fuentes-Gleghorn via sojo.net.
4. These Precious Days
“I can tell you where it all started because I remember the moment exactly.” By Ann Pachett via Harper’s Magazine.
5. ‘The Father’ Is a Portrait of Grief and Belovedness
The film immerses us in the mind of 80-year-old Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) as he navigates the onset of dementia and his increasing dependence on his daughter, Anne (Olivia Colman). By Juliet Vedral via sojo.net.
6. Misogynoir Nearly Killed Meghan Markle
Even the Duchess of Sussex says #MeToo when it comes to misogynoir. By Moya Bailey via bitchmedia.org.
7. Dismantling ‘The Last Plantation’
Black farmers are working with Congress to end a century of racist practices at the USDA. By Mitchell Atencio via sojo.net.
8. A Black Mother’s Fight for Equitable Health Care for Her Son During the Pandemic
Amira Carson-Carey has fought for equitable health care for her infant son amid a pandemic and a summer of racial reckoning. By Ko Bragg via The 19th.
9. 11 Christian Women Shaping the Church in 2021
Collectively, this group envisions and works toward a wide and bold church community that cares for creation, centers those who the church has historically marginalized, and holds both political and faith leaders accountable. By Paola Fuentes-Gleghorn via sojo.net.
10. The Coronavirus Made the Radical Possible
The past year has seen progressive pipe dreams become reality. But can we hold on to what we’ve learned? By Rachel Cohen via nytimes.com.