Pope Francis has also advocated for the eventual reintegration of prisoners into society, warning against only focusing on justice as an "instrument of punishment."
Criminal justice reform measures had been gaining bipartisan momentum at the federal level as members of Congress in both parties supported various policies like ending mandatory minimum sentencing and limiting the use of solitary confinement in federal prisons.
However, with the advent of the new administration that momentum has slowed.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions dropped the Obama administration's "Smart on Crime" initiative and has directed prosecutors to pursue stricter mandatory minimum sentences, which reform advocates say gives judges less flexibility to adjust one's sentence based on the details of their case.
"We believe that it removes from the judge the ability to do his or her job," James Ackerman, CEO of Prison Fellowship Ministries, said on Tuesday.
Christians are be on board with certain aspects of criminal justice reform, but for many there still remains a "disconnect" between their views on justice and reform of the justice system, Prison Fellowship claims in its report "Responding to Crime & Incarceration: a Call to the Church."
In a recent poll commissioned by Prison Fellowship, 88 percent of practicing Christians answered that the primary goal of the justice system should be "restoration for all involved: the victim, the community, and the person responsible for the crime."
However, in the same poll, 53 percent of practicing Christians answered that "it's important to make an example out of someone for certain crimes" even if that entailed punishing them more harshly than they deserved.
"Disproportional punishment is not consistent with our values," Ackerman stated.
How can the Church better bridge this "disconnect" in polling answers?
The Church must educate laypeople on the importance of the issue, and mobilize them to act through parish ministries, Clifton insisted.
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"I want to say, 'where are our resources?'" she asked. "There is so little funding for prison ministry, for care for victims, for programs for victims," she said, and for incarceration prevention programs.
There is a "challenge to the churches to bring the stories to the pulpit," she said, "to convert those in the pews, and know that this is the Gospel message, to be a voice to the voiceless and to go to the margins and the peripheries and be present in accompanying those back into society."
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy arm, agreed.
"Our criminal justice system exists in order to restrain evil, and in order to rehabilitate and to reform those who have committed crimes," he said.
If, however, the system "doesn't stop crime, but in many cases actually furthers crime, making criminals out of those who are not yet criminals, ignoring those who have been victims of crime, not dealing with issues of addiction," he continued, "then we have a criminal justice system that doesn't work and ought to be fixed."
"When we have family members who are left behind, waiting for those who are incarcerated and wondering if anyone remembers them, the church of Jesus Christ needs to be at the forefront of that," he said.