Criminal offenders have God-given dignity that calls for justice, not vengeance, as they are re-entering society
St. Paul, Minn (March 12, 2014)—The Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy office of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, today joined with their “Restore the Vote Minnesota” coalition partners at the Capitol to urge the passage of the voting restoration bill (HF 491 / SF 107) in Minnesota. The announcement coincided with the 7th Annual Second Chance Coalition Day on the Hill which, this year, focused its attention on the disenfranchisement of Minnesotans who have been convicted of a felony, but are no longer incarcerated and now living in the community.
“Invoking us to recall Jesus’ approach to meeting the Samaritan Woman at the well, Pope Francis recently said, ‘God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs, or anything else—God is in this person’s life,'” said Jason Adkins, Minnesota Catholic Conference executive director. “Catholic tradition supports the community’s right to establish and enforce laws that protect people and advance the common good, but also recognizes that both victims and offenders have a God-given dignity that calls for justice, not vengeance. MCC supports the voter restoration bill based on society’s need to balance these two goods.”
Those who return to our communities from incarceration face significant challenges. Among other things, these include finding housing and stable employment, physical and mental challenges, and social isolation. Without finding ways to give them the support they need, and providing concrete opportunities for them to reintegrate into and participate in society, the chance that they will re-offend increases. The voting restoration bill gives Minnesotans who have served their prison time a stake in the community and in the decisions that affect their lives. It also helps foster political participation of minority communities disproportionately affected by the current system, and decreases the likelihood that offenders will be arrested again.
The Catholic Church has long been a vocal proponent of restorative justice and criminal rehabilitation. In 2000, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued the pastoral statement “Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice.” Most recently, the committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the USCCB issued an open letter to Congress in support of the federal Second Chance Act (S.1690 / HR 3465), legislation aimed at addressing the issues faced by individuals who re-enter society from federal and state prisons.
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