Bishops offer statement on ‘A Catholic Vision for Restorative Justice in Illinois’
Noting that “no human person is beyond redemption,” the Catholic Conference of Illinois (CCI) in February outlined a series of policy priorities to make the criminal justice system in our state more rehabilitative and healing, while also increasing public safety.
“With the foundations and recommendations that follow, we contend that our Catholic faith provides a pathway that can allow us to transcend opposing ideologies and lend a truly prophetic voice to the conversation,” states the opening of a document titled “A Catholic Vision for Restorative Justice in Illinois.”
Drafted in conjunction with the Illinois Catholic Prison and Jail Ministry Network, the document was shared by the Catholic bishops of Illinois on Feb. 14. The full text can be found at ilcatholic.org.
It outlines “a vision grounded in principles of Catholic Social Teaching for a justice system not motivated by punishment but rather by the restorative goals of accountability, rehabilitation, healing, and reconciliation.”
Tens of thousands of people are incarcerated in prisons and jails throughout Illinois, including at nine state correctional centers and one federal correctional center located within the Diocese of Peoria.
The CCI statement notes how the Catholic Church is “called to protect and promote the human dignity of those incarcerated and recently released” and cites several prison ministry initiatives in the state, including Prison Cursillo in the Diocese of Peoria. Deacon Joe LaHood coordinates the Diocese of Peoria’s prison and jail ministry.
Among the government policy changes supported in the new statement are for correctional facilities to place more focus on being “instruments of rehabilitation and healing”; strengthening community support for individuals released from incarceration; and focusing investment strategies on local, community-centered initiatives to increase public safety.
“The common good necessitates rules that contribute to public safety and for people to live in community as brothers and sisters, without fear of violence or violation of human rights,” the statement reads. “At the same time, our responsibilities call us to uphold the human dignity of those who violate the rights of others and to contribute to their ongoing integral development, inside or outside the criminal justice system.”