November 13, 2016

Los Altos Ministry News

The Jubilee Justice Group An Account of One Response to a Complex Challenge

References to Michelle Alexander’s breakthrough book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, seem to be popping up everywhere—from the electrifying performance of “Glory” at the 2015 Oscars to the speeches of prominent politicians. Few of us who learned that “more African-American adults are under correctional control today than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began,” can ever forget that shocking statement. Alexander’s account of the disproportionate impact of mass incarceration upon people of color in this country grips the imagination, dispelling the myth that we have moved beyond racism into an era of colorblindness.

Working with Pastor Mark Ulrickson, the Jubilee Justice group sought to respond. Our research took us to the California Conference for Equality and Justice (CCEJ), a human relations organization dedicated to eliminating bias, bigotry and racism through education, conflict resolution, and advocacy. As part of its commitment to intervene in the school to prison pipeline, CCEJ works with schools and law enforcement agencies to find alternatives to punishment. Its mission resonates strongly with Methodists, who are called upon to initiate models of restorative justice. Restorative Community Conferencing provides a second chance for first-time offenders between the ages of 14 and 17. The person who caused harm participates in a community conversation with the person he or she has harmed in order to take responsibility for the action and help the harmed person and community to heal. In this way, the person who caused harm “makes it right.” With a success rate of 95%, young people are freed from the stigma of fines, trials, and possible jail or prison time and have an opportunity to expunge the arrest from their records. Numbers of them have developed into leaders and positive role models among their peers.

Hearing about the Restorative Conversations inspired the Jubilee Justice group to organize a celebration for the young people who had completed their programs. Twentythree young people and their families were invited to an event that took place Thursday, July 21, in our Church. Joined with the participants, their families, and two electrifying performers from the Los Angeles Street Poets, we all felt God at work in the room.

God continues to work among members of the Jubilee Justice Group. We are planning repeat celebrations for January and June of 2017. In addition, CCEJ will present to Mature Years February 8 on restorative community conferencing. We welcome new members to our group. Contact: Jane Wilson Barboza. Telephone: 562.485.8344. E-mail: janewbarboza@gmail.com