Captured: Crying to Be Set Free!

This morning, I attended a great meeting: we were able to hear a presentation and we were given a handout by Cabrini Green Legal Aid: more about CGLA at the end of this post...

I wanted to share some stats and figures from this meeting; as it correlates directly with a post I finished last week: Children of the Incarcerated Masses! My emphasis in both these posts is about how incarceration has a lasting or permanent impact. My emphasis is about how unequal and unjust the system is, mainly capturing those of certain races and those with little or no income. My emphasis is about how incarceration, arrests and convictions affect people well beyond the cold hard cells they were once trapped in; it causes a rise in recidivism, poverty, unemployment and homelessness. My emphasis is plain; Jesus emphasized it, and if we follow his ways and words, it needs to be our imperative that we help set the prisoners free!

CGLA is doing just that; they are helping the poor and disinherited overcome these endless hurdles, these negative consequences stemming from contact with the criminal justice system; Ponder these stats and figures, and see why I, and many others, are so passionate about fighting against this modern-day Goliath, called "mass incarceration":
  • In the US, 65 million people have a criminal record, but may qualify for some type of relief that could remove their record as a barrier to re-entry.
  • 30.2% of people in the US under the age of 23 have been arrested for non-traffic violations, mostly due to Domestic Violence and Drug-related activities.
  • Even after ex-offenders do their time and show evidence of rehabilitation, they face punitive legal provisions that restrict their access to housing and employment opportunities.
  • According to the Society of Human Resources Management - the largest association of human resources personnel in the US - 92% of their member organizations perform criminal background checks on some or all job candidates.
  • All criminal records are matters of public record, whether or not a person is found guilty. Many people who have a criminal record that shows up on a background check have never been convicted of a crime. (US Bureau of Justice Statistics, Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties, 2004 (April 2008)).
Every day I see the residual effects of these 5 bullet points;whether it's John being denied housing after housing because of a marijuana conviction over 10 years ago, whether it's Don who's been denied hundreds of jobs due to his rap sheet, or whether it's Shaina who was denied another apartment yesterday because of her arrest (not conviction) record. Many people are unemployed and homeless, due primarily to the ease and availability of criminal records. Many of these men and women were never convicted, and therefore should be deemed not guilty by society. Many of these men and women are guilty of non-violent victimless crimes and many have "turned their lives around", yet are still paying the price for something they did 20 years ago..

These men and women have been captured; crying to be set free! Let us hold hands, praying, walking and working together, seeking freedom for these prisoners....

Here's a brief overview of what Cabrini Green Legal Aid does: (from their website): CGLA provides high-impact, free legal services to low-income Chicagoans in four areas of law: family, housing, criminal records, and criminal defense.We integrate legal and social services in order to improve our legal outcomes and extend our impact beyond crisis support.
To answer God’s call to seek justice and mercy for those living in poverty by providing legal services that strengthen lives, families and communities.
Our vision is for our clients to leave us stronger than they came.
We believe that justice is more than a verdict. It’s an opportunity to build bridges and strengthen lives.

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