HEATHER WILSON/PICO. SESSION FOUR How Our Criminal Justice System Excludes People. Study Guide for a Year of Encounter

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1 HEATHER WILSON/PICO SESSION FOUR How Our Criminal Justice System Excludes People Study Guide for a Year of Encounter

2 SESSION FOUR: How our Criminal Justice System Excludes People We believe that both victims and the offenders are children of God. Despite their very different claims on society, their lives and dignity should be respected. We seek justice, not vengeance. We believe punishment must have clear purposes: protecting society and rehabilitating those who violate the law. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration, 2000) SEE: Looking at the world as God sees it 50 min WELCOME SCRIPTURE: LUKE 15: Read the passage aloud together and answer the questions that follow. LUKE 15:11-32 Then he said, A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me. So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, How many of my father s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers. So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him. His son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son. But his father ordered his servants, Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found. Then the celebration began. Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean. The servant said to him, Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound. He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf. He said to him, My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found. QUESTION FOR SCRIPTURE READING: What is the point Jesus is making with this story? Who do you identify with the most: the older brother, the younger brother, or the father? A STORY OF EXCLUSION: Video or live testimony - see appendix for video link... 10

3 SIGNS OF THE TIMES: One person read the following information aloud million children in the United States have a parent in prison. 1 The economic and social impact of high prison rates falls unequally on different racial and ethnic groups in our nation: 1 in 106 white men are incarcerated. The number for Latino men is 1 in 36, and for black men it is 1 in If current trends continue, 1 in 3 black males born today in the U.S. can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. 3 This disparity is due in large part to the fact that racial minorities are more likely than white Americans to be targeted by law enforcement; once targeted, they are more likely to be arrested; once arrested they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted they are more likely to face stiff sentences. 4 People returning to society after prison face a series of barriers that make it difficult to find work, housing, childcare and social services. Many formerly incarcerated people are not allowed to vote or to serve on a jury. 5 ENCOUNTER: Discuss the following questions in groups of Have you or a loved one ever made a big mistake in your life and received a second chance? What impact did that have on you? Or, have you or a loved one made a mistake and not been given a second chance? JUDGE: Making sense of our experience through our faith 20 min POPE FRANCIS RESPONDS: One person read aloud... In April 2015, Pope Francis visited Rome s overcrowded Rebibbia New Complex Prison to celebrate Holy Thursday Mass. The Holy Father washed the feet of six men incarcerated there and six women detained in a nearby prison. One of the women held a baby on her lap, and Pope Francis washed and kissed the infant s foot, too. He told the prisoners that Jesus loved them to the point of giving his life for each and every one of them. Each one His love is like this! Personal! 6 In a visit to another prison, Pope Francis told the inmates there: We all make mistakes in life. And all of us must ask forgiveness for these mistakes and make a journey of rehabilitation, to not make any more. 7 Elsewhere, Pope Francis has said, God is in everyone s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else God is in this person s life. 8 Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a throw away culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the exploited but the outcast, the leftovers. (Joy of the Gospel, 53) ENCOUNTER: Discuss the following question in the large group... How do you understand what Pope Francis is saying in these excerpts? Do you believe in second chances? 11

4 ACT: Praying with our feet 20 min Let s continue our conversation about how we could move into deeper relationship with those of us in our parish and community who are excluded in different ways. Do you have any new ideas on how we could create that kind of encounter? Pope Francis and the media: Why do you think Pope Francis has captured the imagination of the world? Is it his personality, his message, or a little of both? What role has the media played in helping Pope Francis get his message out to the world? Would he be having the same impact on public consciousness if we were not reading about his visits and watching television coverage of them? As we think about the possibility of holding a public encounter to bear witness to the sins of exclusion in our community and demonstrate the healing power of encounter and solidarity, what is the message that we would want to send out? What could we learn from Pope Francis about how to make the event newsworthy? What could we do or say? CLOSING 5 min CHECK-IN... Let s hold onto all of this thinking as we prepare to wrap up. How are people doing? How are you feeling? PREVIEW OF THE NEXT STOP ON THE JOURNEY... Focus will be on Racism (see below for suggested pre-reading to prepare). We just want to let everyone know that at the end of the next session, we re going to make a decision about whether we are feeling called to reach into our parish and out into our community to create a deeper/broader encounter around exclusion within our community. So let s pray and reflect on that question between now and then. CLOSING PRAYER: Recite the Prayer of St. Francis together... Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy; O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. ### 12

5 BEFORE THE NEXT SESSION: Before our next session, reflect on these questions by praying, talking with others, and/or journaling about them: If someone has completed a prison sentence, should they continue to face punishment for their past mistakes? Why? Why not? How do you think Jesus would answer that question? ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FOR SESSION 4: Restorative Justice: Healing and Transformation of Persons, Families and Communities (USCCB, 2015) PRE-READING FOR SESSION 5: How Racism excludes people The Joy of the Gospel (74-75, 91-92, 169) Economic Justice for All ( ) p p

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