Restorative Justice and Public Safety
At 20 years old, Jerry Elster was a gang member in Los Angeles. Defiant and angry at a system that he viewed as against him from birth, his attachment to his community was non-existent.
“It was not difficult for me, at that age, to wrap myself in a cloak of resentment and bitterness,” said Elster. Having no ties to his own community, gang life attracted Elster and eventually he ended up killing a rival gang member.
Elster sees his mistakes clearly now because of the restorative justice program offered at his prison, but back as a youth he believes that if programs had existed to help dissuade young men of color from joining gangs, his life would be very different and, more importantly, the public would be safer.
Elster was one of the many participants who came together on Wednesday to brief Assembly Members on the success of restorative justice programs throughout California. His powerful story along with many others, showed that bills such as AB 2590, would bring about much needed change in our criminal justice system.
Visit the redesigned restorejustice.com website to learn about Restorative Justice in California and how you can get involved.
Take Action Now
Please Support our Advocates in Sacramento - Catholic Advocacy Day 2016 is fast approaching. On Tuesday, April 19, delegates from every diocese in California will gather in Sacramento to meet with their elected representatives. They will advocate on several bills important to all Californians and many will bring local issues of importance to their diocese to the attention of lawmakers. Please send a letter that supports these efforts to your local representative. Here are the bills:
Stop the Bill Authorizing a Physician-Assisted Suicide Telephone Hotline - SB 1002 (Monning, D-Carmel) – End of Life Option Act: telephone number - would establish a new, state-funded, telephone 'hotline' for Californian residents who wish to inquire about assisted suicide. The new law making assisted suicide legal in our state, termed by proponents as the End of Life Option Act (AB X2 15), was passed late last year -- but has yet to take effect. Nevertheless, proponents are already seeking to expand this sad law by proposing this inappropriate and conflicting role for the state.
Restorative Justice Solutions - Despite our overcrowded prisons, recidivism remains at an unacceptably high rate. Last year, a broad array of faith-based and community organizations convened and agreed that the current criminal justice system, founded upon the sole purpose of punishment, has failed. Along with Assembly Member Shirley Weber (D- San Diego) they created AB 2590.
Amoris Laetitia – The Joy of Love
As with most Papal documents people look for quotes that support one opinion or another. Amoris Laetitia is no exception. (For instance, footnotes have been in vogue this week.) It doesn’t take any great analysis, however, to see that Pope Francis loves the family and places great importance on nurturing relationships. Take this nugget from paragraph 315:
“The Lord’s presence dwells in real and concrete families, with all their daily troubles and struggles, joys and hopes. Living in a family makes it hard for us to feign or lie; we cannot hide behind a mask. If that authenticity is inspired by love, then the Lord reigns there, with his joy and his peace. The spirituality of family love is made up of thousands of small but real gestures. In that variety of gifts and encounters which deepen communion, God has his dwelling place. This mutual concern “brings together the human and the divine” for it is filled with the love of God. In the end, marital spirituality is a spirituality of the bond, in which divine love dwells.”
Read the document for yourself at the Vatican website. You can choose from eight different languages.
Healing in the Criminal Justice System
Jennifer Balber was only working for Southern California Gas Company for a few months. She had just returned to school and started working two jobs to help finance her education. Living back at home with her mom, she was hopeful about her future despite a recent health setback. Ever the optimist, Jen’s sunny disposition always put others at ease.
Jen was supposed to be working in the office that fateful day in November 1994. She took another assignment and was out in the field reading meters. When the shots rang out, they were not intended for the beautiful girl who was just two weeks shy of her 21st birthday. They were not meant to end a life so early, but they did.
This month’s Because We Are Catholic tells the story of a mother who lost her daughter to a violent, senseless crime. Read about Rose Madsen’s journey toward healing.
This is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week and the Restorative Justice Committee of the California Catholic Conference has issued a statement asking for prayers. Read the Bishops' statement here.
Parish Stories of Mercy
When Pope Francis declared this a year of Mercy he challenged all of us to be more merciful. In East Palo Alto at St. Francis of Assisi, a parish priest was looking for a way to celebrate this year but to also dedicate “24 Hours to the Lord.”
Father Larry Goode had this idea swirling around in his head but wasn’t sure if his parish would be interested. He decided to bring it up at the parish council meeting one evening and was shocked by the response.
“They all loved it.”
April 15, 2016
Vol. 9, No. 12