These resources were prepared as part of the training I helped lead with Cory Fischer-Hoffman for those attending the May 5, 2014 Lobby Day at the Albany, NY State House. The First Presbyterian Church (Hudson) was leading the training for this day and asked me to participate in the training.
I am posting the training resources here on my website so that they are accessible in an ongoing way to those who attended the training.
Official Policy of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) related to torture and the U.S. prison system:
The 217th General Assembly (2006), like its predecessors, calls for fair and humane criminal justice policies. This assembly urges the members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to continue to work to ensure that the rights of all people are equally protected (victims and offenders). To do otherwise would go against our Reformed tradition’s teaching The church of Christ is called to be Christ’s faithful evangelist “… engaging in the struggle to free people from sin, fear, oppression, hunger, and injustice” (Book of Order, G-3.0300c(3)(c)).
Since the goal of for-profit private prisons is earning a profit for their shareholders, there is a basic and fundamental conflict with the concept of rehabilitation as the ultimate goal of the prison system. We believe that this is a glaring and significant flaw in our justice system and that for-profit private prisons should be abolished.
The ultimate goal of the criminal justice system, according to the policies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), is “restorative justice.”
Tips for Advocacy Visits
(adapted from Ecumenical Advocacy Days)
- Familiarize yourself with the Ask.
- In advance, find out as much as you can about your Member’s voting record on issues related to the Ask.
- When you begin a conversation with your legislator or an aide, introduce yourselves as constituents and mention any organizations that you represent. Be positive, pleasant and come to the point quickly, especially if you are in a large group. Make sure someone keeps track of time!
- Assume you will have only 10 minutes to make your case, so limit yourself (or your group) to 2–3 key points. If you are given more time, you can expand on the topic.
- State the purpose of your visit. Explain your position succinctly, and request specific actions that you want your legislator to take. Ask what legislator plans to do regarding your concerns. Be persistent and polite.
- Briefly share why you care about the issue and any experience or credentials relevant to the issues at hand. This is your opportunity to speak as a moral authority, namely, as a person of faith! If you know the member’s position feel free to comment on a past vote, thanking him or her, if possible, for a vote or action in favor of something related to your region of interest that you support.
- One person should take notes during the conversation, being sure to write down any commitments made by the legislator or aide.
Afterward, send a letter thanking the Member or Senator or aide for the meeting. Briefly recap your position and your understanding of any commitments made during the meeting.
These videos are from this training module
First Presbyterian Church in Hudson, New York where we were this evening, a congregation that has taken on this ministry of advocacy for those in prison; has the original cornerstone from 1791 in their Sanctuary.
I love the words “Christ and Peace” at the bottom of it and was resonating this evening with the idea that Christ and Peace have been at the cornerstone of this congregation’s ministry to this day.
As we were gathered in the Sanctuary for training as we seek to serve those in jail as advocates, the local AA chapter was also meeting at the church. I stepped out for a moment from our training and heard a few snippets of the conversations of those in AA who are struggling to be well and holding each other in community.
In both meetings in the church building tonight we were seeking similar things from different points of view. The communion table in the Sanctuary were we were meeting was filled with leaflets, information, notes and ideas.
A sacred repurposing of historic space for holy work.
Wholeness. Healing. New Life. Justice. Resurrection.