Racial Disparities in Kentucky's Justice System

At the 2014 Kentucky Council of Churches assembly we focused on the theme of Restorative Justice. One of our workshop leaders was Mr. Edward C. Monahan. His presentation focused on discrimination in the criminal justice system.

Mr. Monahan began as a public defender in 1976. He was appointed Kentucky Public Advocate by the Governor September 1, 2008 to a four year term and reappointed to a second four year term September 2012, serving in the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy. He is also a Catholic who has served in the past as the Executive Director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky. 

We are pleased to make available both a video of Mr. Monahan's workshop at our assembly (edited to shorten it to 52 minutes) and a pdf version of his powerpoint show.

The video can be viewed here.

The Powerpoint presentation can be downloaded here.

A free downloadable resource recommended during the workshop, created by The Sentencing Project, can be found here or by pasting this url into your browser: http://bit.ly/RacialDisparity

A second resource recommended during the workshop is a book by law professor Michelle Alexander, entitled The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press, 2010, 2012).

When Our Children Get In Trouble

Children sometimes get in trouble outside the home. We all have an interest in helping them to learn about consequences and about making amends. We have an interest in helping them turn their lives in a better direction. People of Christian faith can see these principles in the gospel messages of grace and redemption and Jesus’ own special care for children.

And yet, too often the children of our communities who get in trouble are not met with services that live up to these principles. Too often, they are approached with fear and with harshly punitive responses. They are not helped to get back to school, and their parents and communities are not drawn into finding better solutions. They are even channeled into adult courts and correctional situations that can harden them and make them part of the tragic mass incarceration phenomenon of recent years.

These punishment-focused approaches move from unhelpful to unjust when children from economically disadvantaged families and African-American young people and other social groups are more likely to get harsher treatment. This bias is widespread and very damaging, and churches and people of good conscience denounce it, repent of it, and work for a wholly new approach.

The Kentucky Council of Churches meeting in annual assembly addressed these issues on October 24-25, 2014, by learning about an approach called “Restorative Justice.” The restorative justice movement sheds the light of the gospel on facets of our existing criminal justice system in the US. Practitioners of this approach are active in several of Kentucky’s cities and towns, working to help divert children and adolescents from the wrong path to a better one.

As part of the emphasis on restorative justice, the Council passed two resolutions that will guide the work of many churches in policy advocacy and education and in practical community activities. The first of these is titled “Children in Crisis.” The second is a revision of the Juvenile Justice section of the Council’s larger policy on Criminal Justice. The statements include theological and biblical insights and emphasize prevention, involvement of parents, and education for prosecutors and judges. Please consider using these statements in your own work, Sunday Schools, preaching and other involvements. All policy statements of the Kentucky Council of Churches are available on our web site here.


March On Frankfort emphasized voting rights

Churches of Kentucky participated in the historic March on Frankfort in 1964 and again for the 50th anniversary this year. A short video explaining the history and significance of both marches is HERE.

The issue highlighted in 2014 was the need for Kentucky to begin automatic restoration of voting rights to ex-felons who have completed their sentences. We are one of the last remaining states to do this. Our current practice undermines the work of the churches in helping people embrace new lives in community.

2014 March on FrankfortOut in the crowd of thousands, you were represented by fellow church leaders who carried the KCC banner. You can see the blue and white ship emblem in the photo, near the right hand margin.

On the podium, you were represented as the Council of Churches by the Rev. Ken Golphin who chairs the Council's Justice Commission. And executive director Marian Taylor offered the event's closing benediction.Benediction led by Dr. Taylor

Restorative Justice

Repeatedly, Jesus confronted the human desire for revenge and punishment, turning his listeners instead in the direction of genuine correction, mercy, and a new life.

The churches active in the Council have agreed to pursue this direction, and we call it “restorative justice” in a policy statement available on this site.

There are many ways Christians can pursue restorative justice, from working to help victims of crimes restore their lives to visiting people in prison and helping them build new lives, and much more.

In recent years several approaches have been given the greatest focus by the Kentucky Council of Churches – the struggle to end the use of the death penalty, and efforts to invest in new lives for people who have completed their prison sentences so that they will not return to jail.

End the death penalty:

Our goal is the end of all state executions. The Christian call to restorative justice and to honoring the image of God in every human life is sufficient reason. It is reinforced by the tragic failure of the justice system to avoid putting innocent persons on death row or to give an equal chance to every accused person regardless of economic means or race.

A partner in this work is the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, http://www.kcadp.org This is also one of many areas where we work closely with the Catholic Conference of Kentucky.

You can help. Plan a vigil worship service and a letter to the governor for clemency, for the next time an execution is scheduled. Study this topic so you are prepared if asked for additional involvement. Pray for an end to executions.

Restore voting rights and pave the way to employment:

Links under our "Advocacy" menu will lead you to our campaigns about legislation that would alleviate some of the stigma and difficulty people face when trying to re-enter society after completing a sentence. Kentucky is one of only a few states that still make former felons who want to vote go through an application process run differently by different state governors. And often it is hard to even get an interview, much less a job, when the first thing known about a job candidate is the criminal record no matter how long ago a sentence was completed. The Council supports "expungement" legislation to address this issue. 

On Wednesdays during legislative sessions, The Rev. Anthony Everett gathers people to pray for restoration of voting rights to be made automatic after sentences are completed: