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Christian Leaders Criticize War on Drugs and Mass Incarceration

Reflecting on the symbolic rebirth of Easter, a group of Christian leaders denounced the costly and ineffective war on drugs while urging policymakers to consider treatment.

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By Victoria Kim

04/16/14

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A group of Christian leaders have released a statement in time for the Easter holiday calling for an end to the war on drugs and mass incarceration.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance press release, they chose the upcoming Easter holiday to make their statement in light of the spirit of the Resurrection, to “call for a rebirth and resurrection of communities burdened by the harms of injustice oftentimes masquerading under the guise of law and order and criminal justice.” 

“The war on drugs has become a costly, ineffective and unjust failure,” said Reverend Edwin Sanders, a Senior Servant for the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville, Tenn. Sanders criticized the misguided war waged on entire communities, which has been done “ostensibly under the guise of combating the very real harms of drug abuse.”

The coalition’s recommendations outlined in the statement take aim at policies that criminalize drug possession that result in racially disproportionate arrest and incarceration rates, instead favoring health approaches to drug use, including evidence-based drug treatment.

The statement criticized the drug war’s disproportionate burden on poor and black communities. According to Reverend John E. Jackson, the mass incarceration of the poor has been robbing whole communities of their most precious resource, their young, whose futures are being ruined at a critical point in their lives.

“We are called upon to follow Jesus’ example in opposing the war on drugs, which has resulted in the United States becoming the world’s biggest jailer, with about five percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prisoners,” Sanders said.

The Christian leaders will meet for a press teleconference on Wednesday to discuss their statement.

Not all religious leaders are on board with drug policy reform, however — not even progressive-minded Pope Francis. Last June, while on a visit to a crack cocaine clinic in Brazil, the pope came out in disagreement with the growing group of Latin American leaders who now favor liberalizing drug policies to combat the many societal ills that stem from the drug war.

“A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalization of drug use, as is currently being proposed in various parts of Latin America,” he said. The pope instead focused on addressing the underlying problem behind drug use, favoring “educating young people in the values that build up life in society."

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