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WASHINGTON—The Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development and the president of Catholic Charities USA, urged the U.S. Sentencing Commission to retroactively fix flawed federal sentencing guidelines for federal non-violent drug offenses.
"The United States imprisons more people per capita than any other nation in the world at a cost of approximately $80 billion annually," Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, Committee chair, and Father Larry Snyder, Catholic Charities USA's president, wrote in a July 7 letter. "Rigid sentences for non-violent offenses are not only costly and ineffective, but can be detrimental to the good of persons, families, and communities. Prolonged incarceration often contributes to family instability and poverty and can contribute to recidivism."
They urged the U.S. Sentencing Commission to apply the corrections retroactively to "help address broken sentencing guidelines that have resulted in excessive sentences for 51,000 federal drug offenders sentenced since 1987."
Archbishop Wenski and Father Snyder added that the justice system should promote healing and restoration. "Our Catholic tradition supports the community's right to establish and enforce laws that protect people and advance the common good. But our faith teaches us that both victims and offenders have a God-given dignity that calls for justice and restoration, not vengeance. Contrition, restitution and rehabilitation can better serve the cause of justice than simply punishment for the sake of punishment," they wrote.
They also echoed the words of Pope Francis who 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."
The full text of the letter is available online:www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/criminal-justice-restorative-justice/upload/letter-to-us-sentencing-comm-drug-sentences-2014-07-14.pdf
Keywords: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Bishop Thomas Wenski, Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Father Larry Snyder, Catholic Charities USA
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