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Characteristics of the Inmate Population: The inmate population has risen from , in to a record two million inmates in Just as African and Hispanic Americans are victimized at higher rates, so too, are they incarcerated at higher rates: African Americans make up 12 percent of the U.

Prison inmates have high rates of substance abuse, illiteracy, and mental illness. According to the Department of Justice, nearly two million people are behind bars, of whom 24 percent are incarcerated for drug offenses, and nearly half were under the influence of drugs or alcohol when they committed the crime 17 70 percent did not complete high school As many as , suffer from some form of mental illness 18 While the vast majority of inmates in the United States are men, the number of women being incarcerated has increased percent since , largely as a result of tougher drug laws.

This rate of increase is higher than the rate of increase for men. Seventy percent of female inmates are non-violent offenders, and an equal number have left children behind, often in foster care, as they enter prison. Therefore, the special circumstances of immigrants in detention centers is of particular concern. The Immigration and Naturalization Service INS uses a variety of methods to detain immigrants, some of them clearly inappropriate, such as placing detainees in prisons with convicted felons or in local jails where conditions are deplorable.

Recently enacted laws have resulted in the tripling of the number of non-citizens incarcerated and awaiting deportation, including women and minors. Many of these people an estimated five thousand out of the estimated twenty thousand immigrants under INS detention spend months or even years in detention centers because they are refused repatriation by their countries of origin. Others languish because they are victims of an overwhelmed INS bureaucracy. These lengthy stays place considerable hardship on other family members living in the United States or in their country of origin, many of whom have depended on the income of the person incarcerated.

Additionally, new rules allow for "expedited removal" of those seeking asylum—a process whereby INS officials turn away those fleeing persecution in their home countries. Those not quickly returned are placed in detention centers for weeks or even months until they receive an asylum hearing.

Offenders and Treatment: Since the s, a considerable debate has developed in the United States about whether treatment programs work and to what extent. No single type of treatment or rehabilitation program, however, works for every offender. The effectiveness of programs depends on many things, including type of offense, quality of the program, and family, church, and community support. One area of criminal activity that seems to respond to treatment is substance abuse.

More is being learned about how substance abuse and crime are linked in the United States. According to a National Institute of Justice report, at the time of their arrest two-thirds of adults and half of juveniles tested positive for at least one drug. We now turn our attention to our Catholic tradition and examine how it might help frame our nation's responses to crime. Scriptural, Theological, and Sacramental Heritage Every day Christians pray for justice and mercy in the prayer that Jesus taught us: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

The four traditional elements of the sacrament of Penance have much to teach us about taking responsibility, making amends, and reintegrating into community: Contrition: Genuine sorrow, regret, or grief over one's wrongs and a serious resolution not to repeat the wrong Confession: Clear acknowledgment and true acceptance of responsibility for the hurtful behavior Satisfaction: The external sign of one's desire to amend one's life this "satisfaction," whether in the form of prayers or good deeds, is a form of "compensation" or restitution for the wrongs or harms caused by one's sin Absolution: After someone has shown contrition, acknowledged his or her sin, and offered satisfaction, then Jesus, through the ministry of the priest and in the company of the church community, forgives the sin and welcomes that person back into "communion" Centuries ago, St.

Thomas Aquinas taught us that punishment of wrongdoers is clearly justified in the Catholic tradition, but is never justified for its own sake. A compassionate community and a loving God seek accountability and correction but not suffering for its own sake.

Punishment must have a constructive and redemptive purpose. Today these traditional teachings still shape our understanding of punishment. We begin with a belief in the existence of a natural moral law that resides within the hearts of individuals and within the life of the community. This moral code is common to all peoples and is never fully excused by external circumstances. All are born with free will that must be nurtured and informed by spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical disciplines and by the community. Although not everyone has the same ability to exercise free will, each person is responsible for and will be judged by his or her actions according to the potential that has been given to him or her.

We believe that it is God who ultimately judges a person's motivation, intention, and the forces that shaped that person's actions. Catholic Social Teaching Catholic social teaching offers directions as well as measures for our response to crime and criminal justice. Human Life and Dignity: The fundamental starting point for all of Catholic social teaching is the defense of human life and dignity: every human person is created in the image and likeness of God and has an inviolable dignity, value, and worth, regardless of race, gender, class, or other human characteristics.

Therefore, both the most wounded victim and the most callous criminal retain their humanity. All are created in the image of God and possess a dignity, value, and worth that must be recognized, promoted, safeguarded, and defended. For this reason, any system of penal justice must provide those necessities that enable inmates to live in dignity: food, clothing, shelter, personal safety, timely medical care, education, and meaningful work adequate to the conditions of human dignity.

We believe that because we are all created by God, "none of us is the sum total of the worst act we have ever committed. As a people of faith, we believe that grace can transform even the most hardened and cruel human beings. To be excluded from the proceedings against their offenders, to be ignored by friends and family, or to be neglected by the community of faith because their deep pain is unsettling only serves to further isolate victims and denies their dignity. All of us are called to stand with victims in their hurt and in their search for healing and genuine justice. This includes, of course, the children of the incarcerated, who themselves are seriously harmed by their parents' misdeeds.

Human Rights and Responsibilities: Our tradition insists that every person has both rights and responsibilities. We have the right to life and to those things that make life human: faith and family, food and shelter, housing and health care, education and safety. We also have responsibilities to ourselves, to our families, and to the broader community.

Crime and corrections are at the intersection of rights and responsibilities. Those who commit crimes violate the rights of others and disregard their responsibilities. But the test for the rest of us is whether we will exercise our responsibility to hold the offender accountable without violating his or her basic rights.

Even offenders should be treated with respect for their rights. Family, Community, and Participation: We believe the human person is social. Our dignity, rights, and responsibilities are lived out in relationship with others, and primary among these is the family. The disintegration of family life and community has been a major contributor to crime. Supporting and rebuilding family ties should be central to efforts to prevent and respond to crime. Placing prisons in remote areas diminishes contacts with close relatives and undermines the family connections that could aid in restoration, especially for young offenders.

Likewise, maintaining community and family connections can help offenders understand the harm they've done and prepare them for reintegration into society. Isolation may be necessary in some rare cases; but while cutting off family contact can make incarceration easier for those in charge, it can make reintegration harder for those in custody. The principle of participation is especially important for victims of crime. Sometimes victims are "used" by the criminal justice system or political interests. As the prosecution builds a case, the victim's hurt and loss can be seen as a tool to obtain convictions and tough sentences.

But the victim's need to be heard and to be healed are not really addressed. The Common Good: The social dimension of our teaching leads us to the common good and its relationship to punishment. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church , punishment by civil authorities for criminal activity should serve three principal purposes: 1 the preservation and protection of the common good of society, 2 the restoration of public order, and 3 the restoration or conversion of the offender.

This often neglected dimension of punishment allows victims to move from a place of pain and anger to one of healing and resolution. In our tradition, restoring the balance of rights through restitution is an important element of justice. The Option for the Poor and Vulnerable: This principle of Catholic social teaching recognizes that every public policy must be assessed by how it will affect the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society. Sometimes people who lack adequate resources from early in life i. Unaddressed needs—including proper nutrition, shelter, health care, and protection from abuse and neglect—can be steppingstones on a path towards crime.

Our role as Church is to continually work to address these needs through pastoral care, charity, and advocacy. Subsidiarity and Solidarity: These two related principles recognize that human dignity and human rights are fostered in community. Subsidiarity calls for problem-solving initially at the community level: family, neighborhood, city, and state. It is only when problems become too large or the common good is clearly threatened that larger institutions are required to help.

This principle encourages communities to be more involved. Criminal activity is largely a local issue and, to the extent possible, should have local solutions. Neighborhood-watch groups, community-oriented policing, school liaison officers, neighborhood treatment centers, and local support for ex-offenders all can be part of confronting crime and fear of crime in local communities.

Solidarity recognizes that "we are all really responsible for all. Christians are asked to see Jesus in the face of everyone, including both victims and offenders. Through the lens of solidarity, those who commit crimes and are hurt by crime are not issues or problems; they are sisters and brothers, members of one human family.

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Solidarity calls us to insist on responsibility and seek alternatives that do not simply punish, but rehabilitate, heal, and restore. Policy Foundations and Directions In light of this moral framework, we seek approaches that understand crime as a threat to community, not just a violation of law; that demand new efforts to rebuild lives, not just build more prisons; and that demonstrate a commitment to re-weave a broader social fabric of respect for life, civility, responsibility, and reconciliation.

New approaches should be built on the following foundations: Protecting society from those who threaten life, inflict harm, take property, and destroy the bonds of community. The protection of society and its members from violence and crime is an essential moral value.

Crime, especially violent crime, not only endangers individuals, but robs communities of a sense of well-being and security, and of the ability to protect their members. All people should be able to live in safety. Families must be able to raise their children without fear. Removing dangerous people from society is essential to ensure public safety.

And the threat of incarceration does, in fact, deter some crime e. However, punishment for its own sake is not a Christian response to crime. Punishment must have a purpose. It must be coupled with treatment and, when possible, restitution. Rejecting simplistic solutions such as "three strikes and you're out" and rigid mandatory sentencing.

The causes of crime are complex and efforts to fight crime are complicated. One-size-fits-all solutions are often inadequate. Studies and experience show that the combination of accountability and flexibility works best with those who are trying to change their lives. To the extent possible, we should support community-based solutions, especially for non-violent offenders, because a greater emphasis is placed on treatment and restoration for the criminal, and restitution and healing for the victim.


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We must renew our efforts to ensure that the punishment fits the crime. Therefore, we do not support mandatory sentencing that replaces judges' assessments with rigid formulations. We bishops cannot support policies that treat young offenders as though they are adults. The actions of the most violent youth leave us shocked and frightened and therefore they should be removed from society until they are no longer dangerous.

But society must never respond to children who have committed crimes as though they are somehow equal to adults—fully formed in conscience and fully aware of their actions. Placing children in adult jails is a sign of failure, not a solution. In many instances, such terrible behavior points to our own negligence in raising children with a respect for life, providing a nurturing and loving environment, or addressing serious mental or emotional illnesses.

Promoting serious efforts toward crime prevention and poverty reduction. Socio-economic factors such as extreme poverty, discrimination, and racism are serious contributors to crime. Sadly, racism often shapes American attitudes and policies toward crime and criminal justice. We see it in who is jobless and who is poor, who is a victim of crime and who is in prison, who lacks adequate counsel and who is on death row. We cannot ignore the fact that one-fifth of our preschoolers are growing up in poverty and far too many go to bed hungry. Any comprehensive approach to criminal justice must address these factors, but it should also consider the positive impact of strong, intact families.

Parents have a critical and irreplaceable role as primary guardians and guides of their children. One only has to observe how gangs often provide young people with a sense of belonging and hope when grinding poverty and family disintegration have been their only experience. And while it is true that many poor children who are products of dysfunctional families never commit crimes, poverty and family disintegration are significant risk factors for criminal activity. Finally, quality education must be available for all children to prepare them for gainful employment, further education, and responsible citizenship.

The failure of our education system in many communities contributes to crime. Fighting poverty, educating children, and supporting families are essential anti-crime strategies. Challenging the culture of violence and encouraging a culture of life. All of us must do more to end violence in the home and to find ways to help victims break out of the pattern of abuse. And, in particular, the media must be challenged to stop glorifying violence and exploiting sexuality. We encourage the media to present a more balanced picture, which does not minimize the human dignity of the victim or that of the offender.

The Church's Mission

We oppose capital punishment not just for what it does to those guilty of horrible crimes, but for how it affects society; moreover, we have alternative means today to protect society from violent people. As we said in our Good Friday Appeal to End the Death Penalty , Increasing reliance on the death penalty diminishes us and is a sign of growing disrespect for human life.

We cannot overcome crime by simply executing criminals, nor can we restore the lives of the innocent by ending the lives of those convicted of their murders. The death penalty offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking life. Victims and their families must have a more central place in a reformed criminal justice system. Besides the physical wounds some victims suffer, all victims experience emotional scars that may never fully heal.

And since a majority of offenders are not apprehended for their crimes, these victims do not even have the satisfaction of knowing that the offender has been held accountable. This lack of closure can increase victims' fears and make healing more difficult. This vital concern for victims can be misused. Some tactics can fuel hatred, not healing: for example, maximizing punishment for its own sake and advancing punitive policies that contradict the values we hold.

But such abuses should not be allowed to turn us away from a genuine response to victims and to their legitimate and necessary participation in the criminal justice system. Victims of crime have the right to be kept informed throughout the criminal justice process. They should be able to share their pain and the impact of the crime on their lives after conviction has taken place and in appropriate ways during the sentencing process. If they wish, they should be able to confront the offender and ask for reparation for their losses. In this regard, we offer general support for legislation to respond to the needs and the rights of victims, and we urge every state to strengthen victims' advocacy programs.

Encouraging innovative programs of restorative justice that provide the opportunity for mediation between victims and offenders and offer restitution for crimes committed. An increasingly widespread and positive development in many communities is often referred to as restorative justice. Restorative justice focuses first on the victim and the community harmed by the crime, rather than on the dominant state-against-the-perpetrator model. This shift in focus affirms the hurt and loss of the victim, as well as the harm and fear of the community, and insists that offenders come to grips with the consequences of their actions.

These approaches are not "soft on crime" because they specifically call the offender to face victims and the communities.

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This experience offers victims a much greater sense of peace and accountability. Offenders who are willing to face the human consequences of their actions are more ready to accept responsibility, make reparations, and rebuild their lives. Restorative justice also reflects our values and tradition. Our faith calls us to hold people accountable, to forgive, and to heal.

Focusing primarily on the legal infraction without a recognition of the human damage does not advance our values. One possible component of a restorative justice approach is victim-offender mediation. With the help of a skilled facilitator, these programs offer victims or their families the opportunity to share the harm done to their lives and property, and provide a place for the offender to face the victim, admit responsibility, acknowledge harm, and agree to restitution.

However, we recognize that victim-offender mediation programs should be a voluntary element of the criminal justice system. Victims should never be required to take part in mediation programs. Sometimes their pain and anger are too deep to attempt such a process. When victims cannot confront offenders—for example, because it may be too painful or the offender has not been apprehended—they can choose to be part of an "impact panel. Insisting that punishment has a constructive and rehabilitative purpose. Our criminal justice system should punish offenders and, when necessary, imprison them to protect society.

Their incarceration, however, should be about more than punishment. Since nearly all inmates will return to society, prisons must be places where offenders are challenged, encouraged, and rewarded for efforts to change their behaviors and attitudes, and where they learn the skills needed for employment and life in community. We call upon government to redirect the vast amount of public resources away from building more and more prisons and toward better and more effective programs aimed at crime prevention, rehabilitation, education efforts, substance abuse treatment, and programs of probation, parole, and reintegration.

Renewed emphasis should be placed on parole and probation systems as alternatives to incarceration, especially for non-violent offenders. Freeing up prison construction money to bolster these systems should be a top priority. Abandoning the parole system, as some states have done, combined with the absence of a clear commitment to rehabilitation programs within prisons, turns prisons into warehouses where inmates grow old, without hope, their lives wasted. In addition, the current trend towards locating prisons in remote areas, far away from communities where most crimes are committed, creates tremendous hardships on families of inmates.

This problem is particularly acute for inmates convicted of federal offenses and for state prisoners serving their sentences out of state. Families and children may have to travel long distances, often at significant expense, to see their loved ones. Distance from home is also a problem for those in the religious community who seek to provide much-needed pastoral care. Being away from support systems is especially hard on juvenile offenders, who need family and community support. Public safety is not served by locating prisons in remote communities—regular inmate contact with family and friends reduces the likelihood that upon release they will return to a life of crime.

Not all offenders are open to treatment, but all deserve to be challenged and encouraged to turn their lives around. Programs in jails and prisons that offer offenders education, life skills, religious expression, and recovery from substance abuse greatly reduce recidivism, benefit society, and help the offenders when they reintegrate into the community.

These programs need to be made available at correctional institutions regardless of the level of security and be offered, to the extent possible, in the language of prisoners. More effective prevention and treatment programs should also be available in our communities. We bishops question whether private, for-profit corporations can effectively run prisons. The profit motive may lead to reduced efforts to change behaviors, treat substance abuse, and offer skills necessary for reintegration into the community. Regardless of who runs prisons, we oppose the increasing use of isolation units, especially in the absence of due process, and the monitoring and professional assessment of the effects of such confinement on the mental health of inmates.

Finally, we must welcome ex-offenders back into society as full participating members, to the extent feasible, and support their right to vote. Encouraging Spiritual Healing and Renewal for those who commit crime. Prison officials should encourage inmates to seek spiritual formation and to participate in worship.

Attempts to limit prisoners' expression of their religious beliefs are not only counterproductive to rehabilitation efforts, but also unconstitutional. As pastors, we will continue to press for expanded access to prisoners through our chaplaincy programs, including by dedicated volunteers. We oppose limitations on the authentic religious expression of prisoners and roadblocks that inhibit prison ministry.

The denial of and onerous restrictions on religious presence in prisons are a violation of religious liberty. Every indication is that genuine religious participation and formation is a road to renewal and rehabilitation for those who have committed crimes. This includes contact with trained parish volunteers who will help nourish the faith life of inmates and ex-offenders.

Making a serious commitment to confront the pervasive role of addiction and mental illness in crime. Far too many people are in prison primarily because of addiction. Locking up addicts without proper treatment and then returning them to the streets perpetuates a cycle of behavior that benefits neither the offender nor society. Persons suffering from chemical dependency should have access to the treatment that could free them and their families from the slavery of addiction, and free the rest of us from the crimes they commit to support this addiction.

This effort will require adequate federal, state, and local resources for prevention and treatment for substance abusers. Not providing these resources now will cost far more in the long run. Substance abusers should not have to be behind bars in order to receive treatment for their addictive behavior. We need to address the underlying problems that in turn attract drug users into an illegal economy—lack of employment, poverty, inadequate education, family disintegration, lack of purpose and meaning, poor housing, and powerlessness and greed.

The sale and use of drugs--whether to make money or to seek an escape--are unacceptable. At least one third of inmates are jailed for drug-related crimes. Many of them would likely benefit from alternatives to incarceration. Likewise, crimes are sometimes committed by individuals suffering from serious mental illness. While government has an obligation to protect the community from those who become aggressive or violent because of mental illness, it also has a responsibility to see that the offender receives the proper treatment for his or her illness. Far too often mental illness goes undiagnosed, and many in our prison system would do better in other settings more equipped to handle their particular needs.


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Treating immigrants justly. As a country, we must welcome newcomers and see them as adding to the richness of our cultural fabric. We acknowledge that the law treats immigrants and citizens differently, but no one should be denied the right to fair judicial proceedings. We urge the federal government to restore basic due process to immigrants including a repeal of mandatory detention and allow those seeking asylum a fair hearing. Migrants who cannot be deported because their country of origin will not accept them should not be imprisoned indefinitely.

Legal immigrants who have served sentences for their crimes should not be re-penalized and deported, often leaving family members behind. Many of these immigrants have become valuable members of their communities. Likewise, we oppose onerous restrictions on religious expression and pastoral care of detained immigrants and asylum seekers under Immigration Naturalization Service INS jurisdiction and urge the INS to guarantee access to qualified ministerial personnel. Placing crime in a community context and building on promising alternatives that empower neighborhoods and towns to restore a sense of security.

Fear of crime and violence tears at this web. Some residents of troubled neighborhoods are faced with another kind of community, that of street gangs. These residents feel powerless to take on tough kids in gangs and have little hope that the situation will ever improve. But there are communities where committed individuals are willing to take risks and bring people together to confront gangs and violence.

Often organized by churches—and funded by our Catholic Campaign for Human Development—these community groups partner with local police to identify drug markets, develop specific strategies to deal with current and potential crime problems, and target at-risk youth for early intervention. Bringing together many elements of the community, they can devise strategies to clean up streets and take back their neighborhoods.

One successful community strategy is Boston's Ten Point Coalition, which is credited with reducing juvenile gun deaths, over a several-year period, from epidemic proportions to near zero. This strategy requires a close relationship among religious leaders and law enforcement and court officials, as well as a pervasive presence of people of faith on the streets offering outreach, opportunities for education, and supervised recreation to at-risk youth.

The strategy also sends a clear signal that criminal activity in the community will not be tolerated. Similar strategies that model the Boston coalition are now emerging in other cities. Another community-based strategy to prevent crime is the "broken-window" model. Proponents contend that tolerance of lesser crimes such as breaking windows of cars and factories undermines public order and leads to more serious crimes. Stopping crime at the broken-windows stage demonstrates that a low-cost, high-visibility effort can be effective in preventing crime.

Community policing and neighborhood-watch groups have proven to be effective models of crime control and community building, empowering local leaders to solve their own problems. These efforts reflect the Catholic social teaching principles of solidarity, subsidiarity, and the search for the common good. The Church's Mission The challenge of curbing crime and reshaping the criminal justice system is not just a matter of public policy, but is also a test of Catholic commitment.

Our community of faith is called to Teach right from wrong, respect for life and the law, forgiveness and mercy. Our beliefs about the sanctity of human life and dignity must be at the center of our approach to these issues. We respect the humanity and promote the human dignity of both victims and offenders. We believe society must protect its citizens from violence and crime and hold accountable those who break the law. These same principles lead us to advocate for rehabilitation and treatment for offenders, for, like victims, their lives reflect that same dignity. Both victims and perpetrators of crime are children of God.

Even with new visions, ideas, and strategies, we bishops have modest expectations about how well they will work without a moral revolution in our society. Policies and programs, while necessary, cannot substitute for a renewed emphasis on the traditional values of family and community, respect and responsibility, mercy and justice, and teaching right from wrong.

God's wisdom, love, and commandments can show us the way to live together, respect ourselves and others, heal victims and offenders, and renew communities. Our Church teaches these values every day in pulpits and parishes, in schools and adult education programs, and through advocacy and witness in the public square.

Catholic institutions that offer programs for youth and young adult ministry—including Catholic schools, Catholic Charities, and St. Vincent De Paul agencies—are bulwarks against crime, by providing formation for young people, enrichment and training for parents, counseling and alternatives for troubled children and families, and rehabilitative services for former inmates. Stand with victims and their families.

Victims of crime and their families often turn to their local parishes for compassion and support. Pastors and parish ministers must be prepared to respond quickly and effectively. Our pastoral presence to victims must be compassionate and constant, which includes developing victim ministry programs. Such programs will teach ministers to acknowledge the emotional strain felt by victims, to understand that the search for wholeness can take a very long time, and to encourage victims to redirect their anger from vengeance to true justice and real healing.

Reach out to offenders and their families, advocate for more treatment, and provide for the pastoral needs of all involved. The families of offenders are also in need of our pastoral presence. Seeing a loved one fail to live up to family ideals, community values, and the requirements of the law causes intense pain and loss. The Gospel calls us as people of faith to minister to the families of those imprisoned and especially to the children who lose a parent to incarceration. We know that faith has a transforming effect on all our lives. Therefore, rehabilitation and restoration must include the spiritual dimension of healing and hope.

The Church must stand-ready to help offenders discover the good news of the Gospel and how it can transform their lives. There should be no prisons, jails, or detention centers that do not have a regular and ongoing Catholic ministry and presence. We must ensure that the incarcerated have access to these sacraments. We especially need to commit more of our church resources to support and prepare chaplains, volunteers, and others who try to make the system more just and humane. We are grateful for those who bring the Gospel alive in their ministry to those touched by crime and to those in prison.

The Church must also stand ready to help the families of inmates, especially the young children left behind. One way to help reintegrate offenders into the community is developing parish mentoring programs that begin to help offenders prior to their release and assist them in the difficult transition back to the community. These programs can reduce recidivism and challenge faith communities to live out the Gospel values of forgiveness, reconciliation, and responsibility for all members of the Body of Christ.

Mentoring programs provide an environment of support, love, and concrete assistance for ex-offenders while also educating parishioners about Catholic teaching and restorative justice. Family group counseling programs have been especially effective in redirecting youth who find themselves alienated from their families. Skilled counselors can help families identify their negative patterns in relating to one another and can offer alternate ways of communicating and building stronger families.

Build community. Every parish exists within a community. When crime occurs, the whole community feels less safe and secure. Parishes are called to help rebuild their communities. Partnerships among churches, law enforcement, businesses, and neighborhood-watch groups, as well as social service, substance abuse, and mental health agencies, can help address crime in the neighborhood. The parish community can also be instrumental in developing programs for prison and victim ministries.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development supports many creative efforts to prevent crime and rebuild community. Advocate policies that help reduce violence, protect the innocent, involve the victims, and offer real alternatives to crime. As people of faith and as citizens, we are called to become involved in civil society and to advocate for policies that reflect our values.

Current approaches to crime, victims, and violence often fall short of the values of our faith. We should resist policies that simply call for more prisons, harsher sentences, and increased reliance on the death penalty. Rather, we should promote policies that put more resources into restoration, education, and substance-abuse treatment programs.

We must advocate on behalf of those most vulnerable to crime the young and the elderly , ensure community safety, and attack the leading contributors to crime, which include the breakdown of family life, poverty, the proliferation of handguns, drug and alcohol addiction, and the pervasive culture of violence. We should also encourage programs of restorative justice that focus on community healing and personal accountability.

Organize diocesan and state consultations. In this statement, we have tried to reflect what was learned through our consultations with those involved in the criminal justice system. More difficult to express were their many eloquent personal experiences of pain and joy, of hope and disappointment, of success and failure. Their experiences and challenges have moved us deeply and have helped us focus on the human dimensions of this enormously complex set of problems. Some of their stories have been included as a part of these reflections. We encourage diocesan leaders to convene similar processes of engagement and dialogue with those involved in the system: crime victims, former inmates, jail chaplains, judges, police officers, community leaders, prosecutors, families of victims and offenders, and others.

Ask them to share their faith, stories, and hopes and fears. Listening can lead to action. This kind of dialogue can encourage parishes to minister to victims and to inmates, to mentor troubled youth, and to help former prisoners rejoin society. At the state level, we urge similar convenings held under the auspices of state Catholic conferences. These key Catholic public policy organizations can share their message with influential lawmakers and help shape new policies. Work for new approaches.

No statement can substitute for the values and voices of Catholics working for reform. We hope these reflections will encourage those who are already working for reform both inside and outside the system. We also hope many others will join with them in efforts to prevent crime, reach out to victims, offer ministry and rehabilitation in our prisons, help to re-integrate ex-offenders, and advocate for new approaches. Our national bishops' conference will seek to share the message of this statement.

Through our Catholic Campaign for Human Development and other programs, we will offer ideas and options, directions and resources, for those willing to take up this challenge. Conclusion We Catholic bishops hope that these modest reflections will stimulate a renewed dialogue among Catholics and other people of good will on issues and actions regarding crime and criminal justice. Renewing Our Call to End the Death Penalty In these reflections, we bishops have focused on how our faith and teaching can offer a distinctive Catholic perspective on crime and punishment, responsibility and rehabilitation.

Countries torn apart by war will need to determine the new shape of their governments, and how those governments interact with their people. The entire state system will need to be shored up so that countries are less prone to subversion, supported by effective regional institutions to mediate conflicts and prevent them from spiraling into all-out war. But there are also important differences between the modern Middle East and post-war Europe. There is no magnanimous victor in the mold of the Allies, with the will and capability to reshape the region from the outside.

New global and political realities mean that no Marshall Plan is in the offing for the rebuilding of the Middle East.

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The American people have no appetite for this, and the people of the region, too, are tired of being beholden to outside powers. The Middle East must chart its own vision for the future. There is reason for hope. Although not always evident at first glance, there are promising developments happening in the Middle East, even in the most unexpected places. In Saudi Arabia, female entrepreneurs are founding startup companies at a rate three times that of women in Silicon Valley, as they begin to claim their rightful place in Saudi civic life.

In Egypt, the social enterprise Nafham is using technological solutions to address the problem of overcrowding in Egyptian schools. Some governments are beginning to understand that their future depends on promoting these efforts and partnering with their people to build a common future. Tunisia is showing that revolution need not result in either chaos or authoritarianism, but can begin a transition to an inclusive, democratic future.

The UAE has led the way for positive economic and social reforms and Saudi Arabia has now adopted its own vision for the future. Jordan is making its own efforts. These can be examples for other countries in the region. Renewed and enhanced American leadership is needed in the Middle East.

But not to impose our will militarily or otherwise. Instead, America has a clear interest in supporting and accelerating the positive changes that are already happening. The goal of our strategy in the region should be to help the Middle East move from the current vicious cycle in which it finds itself to a more virtuous one -- one in which the Middle East no longer spawns violence and refugees, is not a drain on international resources, and does not through its instability and political vacuums aggravate great power competition.

With this goal in mind, US foreign policy toward the Middle East should be informed by a set of guiding principles that represent the new reality of the region since First, the old order is gone and is not coming back. Stability will not be achieved until a new regional order takes shape. The region should assume the principal responsibility for defining this new order, which should offer the people of the region the prospect of a stable and prosperous future free from both terrorist violence and government oppression.

Second, disengagement is not a practical solution for the West. Instead, it is in the interest of the United States and others to help the Middle East achieve a more peaceful vision. But their role must be different from what it has been in the past. Rather than dictating from the outside how countries should behave, they should support and facilitate the positive efforts that some people and governments in the region are beginning to take.

Third, a strategy for the region should focus on more than counterterrorism. Even if these groups disappeared tomorrow, others would arise in their place so long as the underlying grievances that led to the Arab Spring remain unresolved. Fourth, sectarian and ethnic rivalries are not as entrenched or inevitable in the Middle East as many assume. Instead, they wax and wane with broader tensions in the region.

Achieving political solutions to the civil wars would go far in stanching these communal tensions. To this end, empowered local governance will be essential going forward, so as to allow people the freedom to shape their own communities. Finally, the Middle East cannot build a better future without the active participation of the people of the region—including women, youth, minorities, and those displaced by conflict. It is high time for all of us to bet on the people of the region, not just on the states. With these guiding principles in mind, we have, in our Middle East Strategy Task Force report, proposed a two-pronged strategy that we think will be able, over time, to change the trajectory of the region in a more positive direction, to the benefit of people in the region and the United States.

The first prong involves outside actors helping partner countries in the region to wind down the violence, starting with the four civil wars. This means containing the spread of the current conflicts and accelerating diplomatic efforts to resolve them, while addressing the staggering humanitarian crises that they have generated. The most immediate priorities must be 1 mitigating the current human suffering in Syria and 2 recapturing the territory that ISIS now controls. Achieving these priorities will require a limited but greater degree of American and allied engagement in the region, diplomatic as well as military.

The second prong of the strategy, which must be pursued simultaneously with the first prong, seeks to support now those bottom-up efforts that will create the social basis for stability and prosperity. This means supporting the citizen-based entrepreneurial and civic activity occurring throughout the region. It also means encouraging regional governments to facilitate these efforts, to invest in the education and empowerment of their people, and to address the societal, economic, and governance issues that are key to future peace and success.

Governments in the region need to create the enabling environment for individuals to deploy fully their talents, whether as innovators, entrepreneurs, or just engaged citizens. This means better and fairer legal and regulatory frameworks, but also more inclusive, effective, transparent, and accountable governance more generally.

The United States should support those governments that are trying to create such an enabling environment. The more ambitious the efforts for change in the region, the more support countries should expect from the United States —not as charity or aid, but because it is a good investment of resources likely to yield solid returns on our security.

By the same token, where countries are not taking steps for change, they should not expect support—not because we wish to punish them, but because it would be a waste of our own limited resources. Most importantly, the American approach toward the Middle East needs to be colored with a good deal of humility. We all should be steeled for the long term, and prepared to weather setbacks when they come—and they will.

But the good news is that our country has succeeded at long-term foreign policy challenges such as this before, not least the rebuilding of Europe after World War II and ending the Cold War. It is time to forge a similar national consensus on our approach to the Middle East and, more broadly, the world. Congress has an incredibly important role to play in forging such a consensus.

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It is our belief that Congress should:. We thank you again for this opportunity to testify before you and look forward to your questions. Type: Factsheet.