CHICAGO (RNS) — The problems in the United States’ criminal justice system go all the way back to slavery, according to Dominique DuBois Gilliard, who directs racial reconciliation work for the Evangelical Covenant Church.
Both slavery and incarceration are means of racial and social control, said Gilliard, who sees these controls working together throughout American history — from Jim Crow to lynchings to the war on drugs to the privatization of prisons.
“Mass incarceration, particularly from 1970 to the present, is just the latest articulation and iteration of it, not this new manifestation,” he said.
Building on the work of civil rights lawyer and legal scholar Michelle Alexander, Gilliard made those connections to a packed room at the launch of his book, “Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice That Restores,” recently at Wilson Abbey in Chicago.
He spoke afterward to Religion News Service about the role of Christians in criminal justice reform, which has been in the headlines recently. And the White House has created a Federal Interagency Council on Crime Prevention and Improving Reentryand made recommendations to Congress for more prison work programs and funding to help people find jobs after their release from prison.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Continue reading this interview here.