fbpx Skip to main content

On America’s Growing Prison Population

WHEREAS, The rate of incarceration in the United States is among the highest of all nations; and

WHEREAS, Prison populations in the United States have risen from approximately 100 prisoners per 100,000 in 1974 to a current number of about 750 per 100,000, resulting in an unprecedented percentage of adults behind bars; and

WHEREAS, The cost of incarceration, averaging more than $30,000 per inmate per year, absorbs a significant percentage of governmental budgets at the federal, state, and local levels; and

WHEREAS, The number of elderly inmates, whose healthcare costs are a growing part of the overall cost of incarceration, has increased dramatically due to longer sentences; and

WHEREAS, Probation and parole systems, if utilized effectively, offer less expensive supervision, employ new monitoring techniques, reunite families, and actively work toward social reintegration of prisoners; and

WHEREAS, Public revenues saved by lower incarceration rates could be applied to improve and expand parole, probation, and reintegration programs; and

WHEREAS, Prolonged incarceration of nonviolent offenders, who make up roughly half of all inmates, frequently contributes to the disintegration of family structures, increases dependency on state aid, and reduces the economic viability of individuals, families, and communities, thus hindering their reintegration into society; and

WHEREAS, Incarceration rates are at or near the highest levels in Southern states, as is the case, for instance, in Louisiana which now incarcerates one out of every eighty-six adults, the highest documented rate of incarceration in the world; and

WHEREAS, Many people serving disproportionately long sentences for nonviolent offenses are routinely housed with hardened offenders; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Houston, Texas, June 11–12, 2013, declare our support and appreciation for all who work in the criminal justice system to protect our communities, often bearing heavy loads with limited resources; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we express our support of legislative policies that seek to reduce high incarceration rates without jeopardizing public safety; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we affirm that probation and parole may serve as a wise, just, and effective alternative to prolonged incarceration for certain nonviolent offenders; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we urge all federal, state, and local criminal justice agencies to increase the support, training, and resources for their personnel and to increase their cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention and other like-minded organizations who seek to reach offenders with the life-transformational Gospel of Jesus Christ; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we affirm our prison chaplains, local church ministries, seminary educational initiatives, and other ministries that serve in prisons and youth detention centers and operate programs that seek to reintegrate prisoners into their communities, and reduce recidivism through moral and spiritual transformation; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we urge churches and other ministries to participate in programs that assist prisoners with reintegration into society, including transitional housing, vocational and drug rehabilitation, and family support, heeding the words of Jesus, “I was in prison, and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25:36).