The Catholic Criminal Justice Reform Network (CCJRN) is a Lumen Christi initiative that connects legal scholars, attorneys, judges, clergy, law enforcement, and others who are committed to seeing reform in the American criminal justice system that is inspired by Catholic thought.
Motivated in particular by the principles of Catholic social teaching, the CCJRN hosts regular events and gatherings of its members for the purpose of collaboration, dialogue, and seeking solutions that transcend the partisan divide and recognize the inviolable dignity of the human person.
The United States incarcerates citizens at a higher rate per capita than any other nation in the world (https://www.sentencingproject.org/criminal-justice-facts/).
The rate of imprisonment in the U.S. has increased by 500% in the last 40 years (https://www.sentencingproject.org/criminal-justice-facts/).
Over 97% of federal criminal convictions and 94% of state criminal convictions are obtained through plea bargains. The poor have more incentive to accept these bargains because they cannot afford bail and risk spending more time in jail and prison if they request a trial (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/innocence-is-irrelevant/534171/).
Whereas scholars lack access to judges, lawmakers and other practitioners with the power to effect change, system-involved persons frequently do not have access to practitioners or scholars, and their lived experiences do not inform theory or practice. Such barriers to encounter deepen social injustice and impede personal and systemic transformation.
Despite the large number of Catholic participants in the criminal justice system, there is not yet a forum for Catholics to gather for discussion, debate, and collaborate on criminal justice reform from a distinctively Catholic perspective – specifically, a perspective informed by Catholic social teaching and its emphasis on the inviolable dignity of the human person.
Discussion and debate on these issues in the wider culture often focus on technocratic solutions or partisan ideology—which all too often result in increased fragmentation and ineffectiveness—whereas dialogical engagement with fundamental religious and moral commitments has the potential to generate broad-based coalitions ordered to the common good.
The transformation of our punitive and harsh criminal justice system through dialogue and change of perspective.
Act as an incubator where distinctively Catholic thought about criminal justice is developed and from which it will spread into the wider culture.
Encourage improvements in curricular treatments of criminal justice in American law schools, including Catholic-affiliated schools, as a means of fostering criminal justice reform.
Energize and inform the American Roman Catholic Church’s engagement with criminal justice reform from national to local levels.