A few months ago, about a dozen members and friends of First U gathered over three weeks in the Shared Ministry Suite to share, to learn, and to express their frustration and anger over what was unanimously considered to be a powerful and ground-breaking book: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. In recent weeks, the issue of mass incarceration and prison reform has been getting statewide attention. Governor Tom Corbett has pushed for the construction of two new prisons in the state, prompting local media outlets to begin exploring the impact of incarceration on Pennsylvania's -- and specifically Philadelphia's -- low-income, African-American, and people of color communities.
On February 27, WHYY's Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane dedicated an hour of her show to exploring the history and legacy of mass incarceration in the United States. And just this morning, the Philadelphia Inquirer printed a piece by Karen Heller about the failure of our state prison systems to address the root causes of crime. Michelle Alexander's book has a gripping title, and gives voice to what some might consider a radical claim -- that systems of mass incarceration in this country are, in effect, replacing an earlier system of racial control which was eradicated with the end of the so-called "Jim Crow" laws in the South. It's a controversial idea, but one that is getting increasingly mainstream media attention, as journalists and advocates begin to explore the issue of mass incarceration with a racial justice lens.
As a result of our first book group, many First U members and friends have gotten involved in local education and advocacy efforts on mass incarceration, specifically with the local policy activist group Decarcerate PA. We invite all of you to come by in April to learn more about the issue, and to think about ways you might like to get involved and further engage our church on the issues of mass incarceration, prison reform, and racial justice. Our second book group will meet over three Wednesday evenings at the church, on April 3, April 10, and April 24 from 5:30-7:30 pm. Hope to see you there!