“… effectively responded to the unique dynamics of racial-caste in U.S. incarceration, and identifies measures for better responding to those dynamics. ”
This project will culminate in a book and multiple journal articles that aim to illuminate the unique strengths and weaknesses of Church community-based Restorative Justice (RJ) programs vis-a-vis racial injustice in the U.S. This is vital to the Church in North America through: 1) describing the ways that Faith community RJ initiatives have effectively responded to the unique dynamics of racial-caste inscribed in the operations of U.S. system of incarceration, and 2) identifying and recommending prescriptive measures regarding how these initiatives might better assess and respond to those dynamics. The project proposes, first, to examine a cross-section of specific examples of the restorative justice movement among Christian communities in the Greater Chicago region. Second, I make the case that recent legal and socio-theoretical diagnoses of implicit racial-caste dynamics of the prison-industrial complex present restorative justice responses to hyper-incarceration with the challenge of responding to distinctively race-oriented (especially African-American and Hispanic) structural and cultural social injustices. Faith-based RJ programs must explicitly and self-reflectively confront these structural and cultural injustices in order to avoid being coopted by the prevailing retributive and caste inflected system. Third, in response to socio-legal diagnoses of the New Jim Crow and its prescription for a social movement to alter the incarceration system, and based upon my investigation of Church-based initiatives, I examine possibilities for conceptualizing RJ initiatives across faith communities as modes of broad-based grassroots community organizing (rather than disparate diversionary efforts). Conceptualizing Faith community RJ initiatives in this way might provide the necessary basis for the kind of social movement prescribed as the necessary means for structurally and culturally changing the New Jim Crow and hyper-incarceration systems in the U.S.