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Like the prophet Nehemiah’s efforts to rally the people to work together to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, the nonprofit multi-ethnic, multi-faith justice organization Lee Interfaith For Empowerment (LIFE) has worked for the past decade to mobilize efforts of the faithful to address important justice issues in Fort Myers, Florida.
At age 16, Kalief Browder found himself on New York’s Rikers Island, awaiting trial for a crime he said he didn’t commit. Returning from a party in the Bronx, Browder was accused of stealing a backpack holding a credit card, an iPod Touch, a camera and $700. At his arraignment, he was charged with second-degree robbery. Bail was set at$3,000. Browder didn’t have the ability to “bond out” — pay the fee. He would spend the next three years in jail before being released, with his charges dropped.
It has been described as one of the major highlights of the 223rd General Assembly (2018) in St. Louis. Hundreds of Presbyterians, including the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, General Assembly Stated Clerk; Co- Moderators Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri and the Reverend Cindy Kohlmann; and Presbyterian Mission Agency Executive Director the Rev. Diane Moffett walked to the City Justice Center. With more than $47,000 received at the assembly’s opening worship service, Nelson turned the money over to local organizations to begin bailing out individuals who had been prescreened for release because they could not afford their cash bail.
The director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness recently found out what life is like behind bars. The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, along with other clergy, was arrested earlier this summer while praying outside the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.