Melissa Browning 06-15-2015
Photo via sakhorn /

Photo via sakhorn /

One in thirty-one. That’s how many Americans are in in jail, in prison, on probation, or on parole. In the U.S., our incarceration rate is 10 times higher than that of other countries while our actual crime rate is lower than those same countries. Citing a 600% increase in the prison population since the 1960’s, with no correlating increase in crime, Michelle Alexander has called mass incarceration “the new Jim Crow.” When people of color represent 30% of the U.S. population, but 60% of those incarcerated, we are in league with David, staring at a towering giant, armed with a prayer and a handful of stones.

While the work before us is daunting, people of faith are called to fight giants. The Spirit who we remember in Pentecost, the Spirit who set the world on fire, has trusted us with this work. We are giant slayers, by God’s grace. For this reason, it is fitting that we revisit the story of the first giant slayer, a young boy who tended sheep and fought off bears and lions.

Michelle Alexander 06-03-2014

Three steps for building a transformative movement for justice.

Dawn Cherie Araujo 11-02-2012

Putting Americans behind bars is becoming an increasingly lucrative business.

Beau Underwood 07-25-2012
Photo illustration, Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

Photo illustration, Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

Living in poverty has always been a struggle, but in Alabama being poor could land you in prison. According to a recent story in The New York Times, Alabama resident Gina Ray was locked up for over a month because she couldn’t pay fees and fines related to minor traffic offenses. Speeding while poor shouldn’t land someone in jail. This punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

Why would such morally outrageous penalties be imposed for such minor violations? Because criminal justice has become big business. Private companies are making millions of dollars running prisons, administering probation systems, and providing health care to those living behind bars.

Dean Galaro 04-25-2012
Prison bars,  rook76 /

Prison bars, rook76 /

Jesus coupled himself with the least in society when he said: “I was in prison and you came to me” (Matthew 25:36 ESV). It’s no surprise: imprisonment was not unheard of for the early church. Paul penned many New Testament letters while he was in custody.

And Psalm 102 reminds us that God’s heart goes out to the interned. “From heaven the Lord looked at the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die.”

A concerning trend of late has been the growth of “for profit” prisons. Spearheaded by companies like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the goal is to relieve states of the job of running prisons. Almost half of American prisoners are currently held in privately run prisons.

Sandi Villarreal 03-22-2012
Prisoner clutch Bible, Steven Frame,

Prisoner clutch Bible, Steven Frame,

Religious conversions are on the rise in American prisons, according to a recent national survey of chaplains by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

A majority of 730 chaplains surveyed say that inmates are switching religions a lot (26 percent) or some (51 percent, and the largest gains are Muslim (51 percent), Protestant (47 percent) and pagan or earth-based religions (34 percent).

But it is difficult to determine prisoners' motivations for converting, according to Cary Funk, senior researcher for the Pew Forum.

“Some of the switching may be short-lived,” Funk said, adding that it is unclear whether the conversions are based on authentic beliefs or access to certain privileges such as special food or religious holidays.

Michelle Alexander 03-01-2012

The fight against mass incarceration is joined by an emerging faith-based movement.

Brian McLaren 06-15-2011

In addition to my summer reading recommendations from the other day, I need to mention a few more.

Gary M. Burge 02-02-2011

For an entire week now we've watched tens of thousands of Egyptians march demanding a change in government. The police force has collapsed. The army is out in force. Residents are policing their own neighborhoods. President Mubarak is weighing his options. And the West is wondering what will happen next.

John Fife 01-24-2011
You can't miss the barrage of headlines detailing the drug cartel war in Mexico.
Nadia Bolz-Weber 12-22-2010
In Matthew 11: 2-11, when John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are yo
Duane Shank 09-10-2010
Among all the responses to the planned (but now canceled) burning copies of the Quran on Saturday by a church in Florida, the Massachusetts Bibl
Vincent Harding 08-23-2010
[Editor's Note: In anticipation of the anniversary of the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, God's Politics will feature a series of posts on the
Maggie Goddard 07-30-2010
"I hate civilians," Warden Clooney barked into the microphone.
Rose Marie Berger 05-07-2010

In my daily prayer book, the morning antiphon for today said: "The Lord chose these holy men for their unfeigned love

I got locked up once when I was in seminary.
Liane Rozzell 01-22-2010
Imagine a prison where an inmate asks to stay an extra two weeks beyond his release date.
Joseph Mulligan 12-09-2009
The following is part of the author´s "jail journal," written in early 2004 while he was serving a 90-day sentence in Georgia for having "crossed the line" at Ft.
Richard Killmer 02-02-2009
I'm grateful for President Obama's swift action to halt the use of torture by signing an executive order that requires the CIA to comply with the Army Field Manual, closes secret prisons, ends rend