Criminal Justice and The Question God Asks

For justice will return to the righteous,
and all the upright in heart will follow it.
Who rises up for me against the wicked?
Who stands up for me against evildoers?

Psalm 94:15-16

Presently, there are grave injustices in the American criminal justice system. Specifically, the disproportionate prosecution and sentencing of black and brown people in America. For example, the U.S. Sentencing Commission states that in the federal system, black offenders receive sentences that are 10 percent longer than white offenders for the same crimes. Additionally, for the same crimes, African Americans are 20 percent more likely to be sentenced to prison.

Even more startling, the prison population grew by 700 percent from 1970 to 2005, a rate that is outpacing both crime and population rates. The problem is worsening.

As a former attorney, I’ve seen this disparity firsthand. Two of my first handful of cases involved two young boys, both charged with an identical offense (bringing a BB gun to school), both having no prior criminal history. Both boys were obviously wrong; however, one of my clients was offered a slap on the wrist and the other received two years in a juvenile detention facility. The only difference in their entire case was their race—and these grave injustices happen every day.

God’s question remains for us today: Who rises up for me against the wicked? Who stands up for me against evildoers?

In response, would we seek God through prayer:

  1. That godly women and men in the criminal justice system will speak loudly and graciously against the injustices in our system.
  2. That our hearts would break for those in our criminal justice system, especially if they are different from you.
  3. That God would remind us of the gospel, that it is not our loveliness that makes Him love us—and accordingly, we need not require blameless behavior from others before we commit to loving service on their behalf.

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Jordan Rice is the lead pastor of Renaissance Church in Harlem, a HFNY church partner.