Biblical justice informs approach to criminal justice reform

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AUSTIN—Christians should pursue justice because the Bible teaches it is an essential part of God’s character and is at the heart of the gospel, said Kathryn Freeman, director of public policy for the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission

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Kathryn Freeman

Furthermore, James 1:27 identifies the pursuit of justice as a mark of discipleship, Freeman told a workshop during an advocacy training event in Austin.

In addition to these biblically rooted reasons, Freeman cited four things the Bible teaches about justice:

1. Humans are created in the image of God and therefore possess dignity endowed by their Creator (Genesis 1:26-27).

2. God expects impartiality in the distribution of justice (Deuteronomy 16:19).

3. The goal of justice is restoration, demonstrated throughout the biblical narrative in such stories as Jacob and Esau, David and Bathsheba, the prodigal son, the woman at the well, and Jesus’ restoration of Peter.

4. The pairing of justice and mercy is a biblical imperative (Amos 5:23-24, Micah 6:8, Matthew 23:23).

These overarching principles of justice inform a Christian’s approach to the specific area of criminal justice reform, which enjoys bipartisan support during these times of deep political divisions.

With an eye to justice writ large, criminal justice advocates in Texas are working on the following initiatives, among others.

Women’s dignity act (HB650) to provide trauma screenings and treatment to women entering incarceration, to ensure family unity and to improve healthcare

Occupational licensing reform so that convicts, who must pay for the licensing classes they take while incarcerated, actually can obtain licenses once released

Raise the Age and Second Look to provide protections for incarcerated teenagers

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