Ending Mass Incarceration

Every Sunday, members of our Committee to End the New Jim Crow (CENJC) lead a Black Lives Matter demonstration along Pennsylvania Avenue after worship. All are welcome to join our weekly show of love, which has become a joyful moment for the community, when many drivers and passersby wave, honk, and shout words of appreciation (along with the rare expression of disagreement). All are invited to come outside with us and experience 15 minutes of celebrating the diversity of our South Lansing community.

All are invited to attend the annual meeting of Citizens for Prison Reform on Saturday, October 21, 5:00 p.m. Join Edgar Barens to screen his Oscar-nominated documentary Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall. He will lead a discussion about efforts to move Michigan and other states towards a system for caring for elderly, infirm, or terminally ill prisoners compassionately and economically.

The CENJC accepts donations of used books for inmates and prison or jail visitors on selected Sunday mornings. Please bring your extra paperbacks (no hardcover) or purchase a couple from our Grove Street Book Shop just off the Atrium at church. This is a way for us to provide inmates with knowledge, quiet entertainment, and spiritual enrichment through reading during a difficult time in their lives. Inmates’ specific requests include spiritual/religious, mystery, and western books.

The 2018 schedule of book collections is:

January 7
April 8
July 8
October 7

The CENJC is part of the Michigan Collaborative to End Mass Incarceration, which occasionally holds events and meetings at our church. One of our partner organizations within the Collaborative, the American Friends Service Committee's Michigan Criminal Justice Program, has held focus groups to collect the stories of men and women who served long sentences in Michigan’s prisons and are now out in the community, doing well and contributing to society. Here is the first of a series of films broadcasting these stories:

2017 educational event sponsored by Action of Greater Lansing
The CENJC raises funds for prisoner and family advocacy organizations, demonstrates and meets with legislators to influence state policies, and presents educational programs to the congregation and wider community. The group also hosts lectures, discusses books (including Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, a Common Read of the Unitarian Universalist Association), and provides space in our church building for support meetings for families of the incarcerated.

The mission of the CENJC is to end mass incarceration through both education and action. We wish to educate ourselves and others about the ways in which the criminal justice system in the United States perpetuates racial and economic hierarchies. We wish to contribute to efforts to change laws, policies, and programs that created mass incarceration including, but not limited to, harsh sentencing laws, drug laws, racial profiling practices, zero tolerance policies in schools, and policies that deny the rights of former felons and limit their ability to successfully reenter society. As Unitarian Universalists, we believe the punitive turn that has occurred in the U.S. criminal justice system over the past several decades is inconsistent with our principle of the worth and dignity of all people.

The Collaborative meets at our church and is made up of over 20 statewide organizations and a greater number of individuals.

For more information, contact co-chairs Sharon Monod or Judith Rowell-DeVaney.  

Find contact information in the directory available at church.