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June 16, 2016

Sharon Watkins Joins Faith Leaders Calling for Sentencing Reform

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) General Minister and President Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins joined faith leaders from across the country Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol to pray for victims and families of the Orlando shooting and to pray that another issue critical to our safety and security -- reform of systems that imprison 2.3 million Americans -- is accomplished through changes in federal sentencing guidelines. The prayer vigil was led by faith groups from across a wide spectrum of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim groups, along with civil rights groups.

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 (S. 2123) has not been brought to a vote, despite receiving wide bipartisan support. Faith leaders met with Senators and members of the House of Representatives to urge that this bill, and other reforms, move forward. Sentencing reform is one issue that has been able to cut through partisan gridlock and has received support from both Republicans and Democrats.

“Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all spring from a story of freedom, of a God who liberates the enslaved and gives second chances,” Watkins said. “We believe this is a matter of faith and morality, and we urge Senator McConnell to do the right thing and bring this bill to a vote.”

The Senate bill, S. 2123, reforms the “Three Strikes” rules that can put persons in prison for life for minor offenses. It also changes some of the mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. “We have been supportive of this bill since the beginning, and still feel that it is the best chance we will have to see meaningful change for years to come,” said Aundreia Alexander, Associate General Secretary of the National Council of Churches. “If this legislation is not brought to a vote in the next few weeks, it likely will die. Time is of the essence. We urge Congress to act now.”

The event was sponsored by the National Council of Churches, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Interfaith Criminal Justice Coalition, the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism.

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