Pastors urge Goodlatte on Sentencing Reform Act

A number of local faith leaders have joined together to call on Representative Bob Goodlatte to reintroduce a bill he had previously supported, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. This is a bill with broad bipartisan support and would eliminate some mandatory minimum sentences, restoring judges’ discretion, among other needed reforms.

Their letter is included in full, below.

November 28, 2017
The Honorable Robert “Bob” Goodlatte
United States House of Representatives
Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary
Dear Chairman Goodlatte,

We, the undersigned faith leaders, write to call for comprehensive criminal justice
reform. As constituents and leaders in the Sixth Congressional District of Virginia we
urge Chairman Bob Goodlatte to show leadership once again in reintroducing his
Sentencing Reform Act. The system of mass incarceration has devastated countless
communities, leaving nearly one in five Americans with a criminal record. As people
of faith we believe in the power of the Almighty and in the power of redemption. We
seek justice for all of God’s children, both the victims as well as those who commit
crimes. When more than two million men, women, and children sit in cages, our
society cannot be free or just.

Research and evidence shows us that mandatory minimums do not work and have
dramatically worse effects in communities of color. Moreover, the U.S. Sentencing
Commission has reported that about 70 percent of mandatory minimums are
imposed on African American and Latino/a individuals.[1] We desperately need
comprehensive criminal justice reform that addresses the inequities in every
element of the system: sentencing, prisons, and reentry.

We applaud Representatives Collins and Jeffries for their introduction of the Prison
Reform and Redemption Act H.R.3356. It was also heartening to see Representative
James Sensenbrenner reintroduce the Second Chance Reauthorization Act H.R.2899
to help community based organizations and faith groups serve returning citizens.
The reintroduction of the Sentencing Reform Act would complete a full and
comprehensive criminal justice reform package to begin to make communities
whole again.

As a faith community we believe in the power of redemption of all of God’s children.
We also seek a society with equity and justice for all. Excessive mandatory minimum
sentences disproportionately harm our communities and rob men and women of,
sometimes, decades of their most productive years of life. The Sentencing Reform
Act would reduce these excessive sentences and pair well with the other pieces of
reform already under consideration. We call on Chairman Goodlatte to reintroduce
the Sentencing Reform Act.

Sincerely,

Rev. Jennifer Davis Sensenig
Community Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg, VA, Lead Pastor
Faith in Action, President

Rev. Delgardo “Rick” Linthicum
Amazing Grace Outreach Church, Lynchburg, VA, Senior Pastor

Rev. Stephanie Sorge Wing
Trinity Presbyterian Church, Harrisonburg, VA, Pastor

Jason Gerlach
Community Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg, VA, Associate Pastor

Rev. Philip L. Kniss
Park View Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg, VA, Senior Pastor

Rev. Brian Bolton
Shalom Mennonite Congregation, Harrisonburg, VA, Pastor

Rev. Sylvia Ball
Sweet Union Baptist Church, Roanoke, VA, Senior Pastor

Rev. Ann Pettit
Massanutten Presbyterian Church, Penn Laird, VA, Associate Pastor

Rev. Mark Keller
Harrisonburg Mennonite Church

Dayna Olson-Getty
Community Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg, VA, Associate Pastor

Harvey Yoder, Pastor
Family of Hope Mennonite Church, Rockingham, VA

For a PDF version of the letter, click here.

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