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On Wednesday, June 29 the Committee for Social Justice of St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church, co-sponsored with Center Church and AHCC to present a program on the book, THE JUSTICE IMPERATIVE: How Hyper-Incarceration Has Hijacked The American Dream.

John Santa and Cynthia Cloney of the Malta Justice Initiative of Connecticut presented the talk. The Order of Malta is the third oldest order in the Catholic Church, and work on behalf of the poor and sick all over the world. Their mission in the United States is prison ministry.

In his remarks, Mr. Santa stated that sometimes ”good people do bad things.” He pointed out that many in prison are there due to addiction and/or mental health issues which can contribute to good people doing bad things.

Malta supported the writing of this book to share information about incarceration and what it does to the American Dream of many. At the present time, the United States constitutes 5% of the world’s population, but incarcerates 25% of the total prisoners world-wide.

While there is a desperate need to educate and train the incarcerated, Wesleyan University is the only college in Connecticut which offers courses to prisoners, at Cheshire and York Correctional Institutions. There is only one Re-Entry Center, at Cybulski Prison in Enfield. Though 96% will eventually be released, if they have no skills or education, many will not be able to support themselves or their families.

There is resistance to providing jobs, however. Mr. Santa and others at the Malta Justice Initiative have spoken with 45 different organizations about offering jobs to ex-offenders, and to date, not one has been receptive to the idea.

Mr. Santa pointed out that as Christians we are called to forgive as Jesus forgave. Once a person has paid their “debt” to society by completing a prison term, they should be entitled to forgiveness and a second chance. It is up to us to help our society change its approach to incarceration, moving from the concept of punitive justice toward restorative justice. If you would like to find out more about the Second Chance Society please contact Patti Beckett.