Statement from Bishop Robert McElroy, president of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops:
The California Catholic Conference of Bishops opposes Proposition 20 on the grounds that it threatens to overturn the important criminal justice reforms advanced by Propositions 47 and 57. These historic laws established California as a leader in the movement to reform a broken, racially biased, disproportionately punitive and cost-prohibitive system through the application of restorative justice principles and practices.
As Catholics, we are compelled to confront two of the greatest sins of our times: institutionalized racism and mass incarceration. Both are inherently harmful to human dignity and do not recognize the oneness of humanity that demands restoration of relationship as a basis for a just society.
In keeping with Catholic social teaching, Pope Francis has instructed that, “the Church recommends a justice that is humanizing, genuinely reconciling, a justice that leads the offenders, through an educational way and through inspiring penance, to complete their rehabilitation and reintegration into the community.”
Recent reforms supported by the Bishops and by the voters of California have shaped a more restorative, rehabilitative system; one that has reduced the prison population while keeping crime rates at historical lows. The savings yielded by these reforms have been more judiciously allocated to provide youth education and drug treatment programs that help to prevent crime in the first place. While there is certainly more work to be done to ensure that all Californians experience true and equitable justice within our correctional justice system, we are grateful for the efforts of so many groups, individuals and faith communities that have begun the transformation.
Proposition 20 represents a misguided and disheartening setback in all of the progress that has been made to create a more just and restorative system.
If passed, Proposition 20 could interrupt California’s record-low rates of crime by diverting resources away from social programs and community-based programs that help to reduce crime. It could also increase recidivism by eliminating effective rehabilitation programs that have been proven to reduce the chances that an individual returns to jail or prison. It will most certainly send many more adults and youth to prisons and jails, increasing the costs and once again over-crowding prisons.
Please join the leaders of our faith in voting no on Proposition 20 so that we can ensure that the arc of our state’s justice system increasingly bends toward justice for all.
Read more on our Election Resources page.