MCC Photo/Joshua Russell

The New Jim Crow project uses Christian study guides to engage and educate people on mass incarceration and racial disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system.

The New Jim Crow project

November 10, 2015

The United States is home to only 5 percent of the world's population, but has 25 percent of the world's prison population. The racial disparity in mass incarceration in the U.S. is staggering. White men stand a 1 in 17 chance of being incarcerated during their lifetimes (on average), while Latino men stand a 1 in 6 chance, and African-American men stand a 1 in 3 chance.

The New Jim Crow project uses a Christian study guide and Michelle Alexander's book to explain the details of mass incarceration, how it came to be, and what can be done to change it. If a group or class in your congregation is interested, you can get more information here.

Educating ourselves and our communities about ending mass incarceration is particularly important now. A few weeks ago, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. While far from perfect, this bill would be the first step toward rectifying some of the massive injustices of mass incarceration.

Policy updates

Haiti: Violence and fraud marked Haiti's first round of elections in August. On October 25, Haitians went to the polls again to elect a new president. While there were improvements from the first round, further allegations of fraud and vote buying have left many question marks about the process. Many members of Congress are concerned about free and fair elections in Haiti, and wrote a letter to Secretary Kerry ahead of the second round of elections.

Immigration: Senator Vitter’s bill to withhold federal funding from so-called "sanctuary cities" failed a procedural vote on Oct. 20 and no further action is expected in the near future. The new Speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan, has pledged not to move a comprehensive immigration reform bill forward during President Obama’s tenure.

Syria: Senators Graham (R-S.C.) and Leahy (D-Vt.) have introduced legislation to increase funding for Syrian refugees. On the House side, Rep. Vargas (D-Calif.) is circulating a letter to members of the House in support of higher funding levels for Syrian refugees. Support these efforts.

Upcoming events

January 22 is the deadline for entering our high school essay contest. All students at Mennonite high schools or who are members of a Mennonite, Brethren in Christ or other Anabaptist congregation are eligible to win up to $1,000.

April 15-18 Join us here in Washington, D.C. for Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2016. This year's theme is "Lift Every Voice! Racism, Class, and Power."

Recent articles

A question of priorities (military spending)

"He went to school and never came home" (Palestine and Israel)

Sanctuary city policies make communities safer (immigration)

Words of welcome from Pope Francis (immigration)

Action alerts


Face Justice: To mark the fifth anniversary of cholera's introduction to Haiti, MCC and coalition partners put up portraits of cholera victims outside the United Nations in New York, Geneva and Port-au-Prince. Victims' messages were also sent to U.N. ambassadors on postcards. For more info on the campaign, check out the new website asking the U.N. to "Face Justice."

Staff updates

Charissa Zehr spoke in chapel at Messiah College (Grantham, Pa.) on October 15.

Joshua Russell moderated a panel on Christian pacifism and lethal drones at Furman University (Greenville, S.C.) on October 27. The panel included Isaac Villegas, pastor of Chapel Hill (N.C.) Mennonite Fellowship.