Presbyterian Criminal Justice Network


“Ending the mass incarceration crisis and putting people before profit.”

Welcome to PHEWA’s newest network! In February 2012, 35 people came together at Stony Point Conference Center in New York to engage in an intensive three day process of personal sharing, education, asset mapping and future visioning. By the end of their time together, this group of individuals from twelve states and every region of the country had coalesced into the beginnings of a network, united in the goal of transforming our nation’s broken criminal justice system.This gathering was the result of General Assembly action in 2010 instructing PHEWA to hold a consultation with the goal of creating a new PHEWA network focused on criminal justice issues. Read more about this gathering here and here.

Resources and Articles

Presbyterian Criminal Justice Sunday | January 22, 2017

PHEWA’s Presbyterian Criminal Justice Network (PCJN) members offer these worship resources in observation of Presbyterian Criminal Justice Sunday. Whether you observe Criminal Justice Sunday on this designated date or set a different time that works better for your congregation or worshiping community, we hope that you find this material to be useful. It is also our hope and prayer that, beyond observation of Criminal Justice Sunday, we will all work together to ensure a place for everyone at the Lord’s Table where the gifts of all God’s people are valued and affirmed. | Download resource (2016 materials)

screen_shot_2013-12-16_at_11.42.39_am_small150The Power of Presence

The Rev. Caitlin Werth, member of PHEWA’s Presbyterian Criminal Justice Network (PCJN), writes powerful reflections on ministry, with call to action, in her article in Unbound: An Interactive Journal of Christian Social Justice. Caitlin serves as the director of the HOPE Pre-Release Program at Allegheny County Jail, an interfaith, rehabilitative, re-entry program for men and women who want to restore their relationship with their God, rebuild their lives, and reconcile to their community. | Read article

First Presbyterian Criminal Justice Network Action

In their first action as a network, informed by the policy statements of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), participants composed, faxed, emailed and hand delivered letter to the governors of 48 states, challenging them to resist prison privatization. Future plans include increasing local membership and resource development for congregations who feel a call to respond to this national crisis.

pcjn_resolution_small150What have General Assemblies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) said about matters related to the criminal justice system of the U.S.A.?

The 215th General Assembly (2003) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) approved a Resolution Calling for the Abolition of For-Profit Private Prisons and commended it for churchwide study and implementation. This Resolution makes clear that private prisons are not an economic but a deep religious and ethical issue, a cornerstone of our collective work to put justice back into the so-called criminal justice system of this country. | Download Resolution

Resolution on Restoring Justice, approved by the 214th General Assembly (2002), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

The 200th General Assembly (1988) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) adopted a statement on “Prison Violence and Nonviolent Alternatives” that reaffirmed the theology of previous General Assemblies in urging that “individual Presbyterians and the entities of the General Assembly . . . advocate a social order where compassion and justice characterize efforts toward those in the criminal justice system.” | Download Resolution

Capital Punishment

Read what Presbyterians believe about capital punishment

Language is Important…

We are grateful to colleagues from the Prison/re-Entry Working Group of the Presbytery of New York City for calling our attention to this 2007 “Open Letter to Our Friends, “We Are People…just like you” written by staff persons for what is now The Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions (CNUS), “the first and only independent public policy, research, training and advocacy organization designed and developed by formerly incarcerated professionals and staffed by people directly impacted by the criminal punishment system.” This is a reiteration of the desires of many in the disability-rights community, to please become familiar with and come to use People First Language.  As Kathie Snow points out there, “It is about respect and dignity; putting the person, not any condition, first.”

Other Resources

  • 2009 resources from the Prison/Reentry Working Group, The Council for Witness in Society and the World, Presbytery of New York City; Prison/Reentry Ministry & Advocacy: Take a Next Step; Resources for Education and Action
  • Hudson River Presbytery Prison Partnership and their resources and links.
  • Rehabilitation Through the Arts
  • Prison Legal News (PLN) is an independent 64-page monthly magazine that provides cutting edge review and analysis of prisoner rights, court rulings and news concerning prison-related issues. PLN has a national (U.S.) focus on both state and federal prison issues, with some international coverage as well. PLN provides information that enables those in prison, and other concerned individuals and organizations, to seek the protection and enforcement of the rights of people in prison, at the grassroots level. PLN is published by the Human Rights Defense Center.