Here is news, in the short and long versions, of an important conference relevant to our group’s support of the task force studying The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.

“Locked Up, Locked Out, Locked Away” will be the theme for the NJ Council of Churches annual Issues and Action event, set for Saturday, January 26, at Shiloh BaptistChurch in Trenton, NJfrom 8:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
To address incarceration in New Jersey and the United States, the speakers will include Professor Mark Taylor of Princeton Theological Seminary, author of The Executed God; Professor George Hunsinger, also of Princeton Theological Seminary and founder of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture; Ms. Bonnie Kerness, Esq., coordinator of American Friends Service Committee’s Healing and Transformative Justice Project; and The Reverend Samuel K. Atchison, president of Trenton Ecumenical Area Ministry, a leader in addressing the issue of re-entry of prisoners into society.
The program will provide opportunities for participants to engage in dialogue and to discuss how their congregation might be engaged in prison ministries. REGISTER: office@njcouncilofchurches.orgor

More details: 

Locked Up, Locked Out, Locked Away

The New Jersey Council of Churches annual Issues and Action Day, Saturday, January 26, 2013, will address the issue of incarceration here in America.  The issues are many in our country, which has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, over two million persons, some 25,000 inmates in New Jersey.  Communities of color are disproportionately incarcerated due to unequal sentencing laws, racial profiling, and institutionalized racism. “This year’s conference”, said Joan Diefenbach, Esq., Executive Director of the council, “will address the many faceted issues in our criminal justice system.  We know that the criminal justice system is overall retributive and not restorative.”  Conference presenters include four distinguished leaders who have been addressing these critical issues.

Professor Mark Taylor from Princeton Theological Seminary and author of the “The Executed God” argues passionately against a penal system he regards as monstrously punitive, inherently unjust, and deeply racist.  He has been a leader in supporting church communities in their efforts to organize on peace and justice issues.

Professor George Hunsinger of Princeton Theological Seminary is the founder of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture that was founded in 2006, now has over three hundred religious organizations, including our United Board of Church and Society.  Hunsinger, who proclaims Torture a moral issue, reports that “never before in American history has cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment as proscribed by international and domestic law, been so openly justified.”  Hunsinger is the editor of the book “Torture Is a Moral Issue”.

Ms. Bonnie Kerness, Esq. is a life-time activist committed to prisoner rights, was the founder of the Prison Watch project, and is currently the coordinator of the American Friends Service Committee’s Healing and Transformative Justice project.  The American Friends Service committee, a Quaker organization, is a leading faith community in New Jersey addressing issues of immigrant rights and criminal justice policies.

The Reverend Samuel K. Atchison, President of the Trenton Ecumenical Area Ministry, has been a leader in addressing the issue of re-entry for prisoners in our society as well as local congregational ministries to inmates and their families.  Atchison, a retired Chaplain at New Jersey’s maximum security prison, maintains that “locking up those who disturb our peace means nothing if we make no provisions for them upon their return and the reality is that they are returning by the hundreds of thousands each year.”

The design of the conference will engage the audience in dialogue with these distinguished leaders who will address the forum.  It too will provide a unique opportunity for participants to discern how their congregation may be engaged in prison ministries.  The conference will be held at the Shiloh Baptist Church in Trenton from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.

For more information and registration, contact the New Jersey Council of Churches at 609-396-9546 or email