Racism and Incarceration

Any engagement with the reality of incarceration in the United States must involve engagement with the reality of racial injustice.  

The Problem

“Sentencing policies, implicit racial bias, and socioeconomic inequity contribute to racial disparities at every level of the criminal justice system. Today, people of color make up 37% of the U.S. population but 67% of the prison population.

Overall, African Americans are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences. Black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men and Hispanic men are more than twice as likely to be incarcerated as non-Hispanic white men.”

 From The Sentencing Project – Criminal Justice Facts

The Solution

Racism is not only a sin of individuals who unjustly discriminate or fail to reflect about their own bias.  Racism is also a sin woven into and perpetuated by institutions and structures to which we are all connected.  To resist racism requires action by all to unmask and recreate these structures.

Any engagement with the reality of incarceration in the United States must involve engagement with the reality of racial injustice.

Racism & Incarceration 1

We must overcome all forms of racism, of intolerance and of the instrumentalization of the human person.

- July 18, 2017. (Tweet from @Pontifex) -

Catholic Resources
Against Racism

The Right Road
A Catholic approach to prison reform

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference
of England and Wales

Walking with the Excluded: Conversations for Impact with author Reuben Miller

Thrive for Life

The Making of "Superpredators"
The first edition of The Marshall Project’s new video series, examines a toxic media myth that damaged a generation of Black youth.

The Marshall Project

A Place of Redemption
A Christian approach to Punishment and Prison

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference
of England and Wales

Teaching Kids to Respect Others: Racism

Kevin Dowd, Ph.D Cand.

Prayer for Healing & Ending Racial Injustice


An Examen for Racism

Patrick Saint-Jean, S.J.

Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) 

Collaborative Organizing For Racial Equity (CORE) Toolkit

Jesuits West

Statement Against Racism: Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition


America Magazine: The Holy Spirit is moving us to act against racism.

Fr. James Martin, SJ

National Catholic Reporter: The assumptions of white privilege and what we can do about it.

Fr. Bryan Massingale’s Article

America Magazine: Pope Francis on the death of George Floyd: We cannot tolerate racism and claim to defend life

Gerard O’ Connell

Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love - A Pastoral Letter Against Racism, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (2018)


Brothers and Sisters to Us: United States Catholic Bishops Pastoral Letter on Racism (1979)


Brothers and Sisters All: Pax Christi USA’s 20-year Anti-Racism Initiative

Pax Christi USA

JSRI: Jesuit Social Research Institute’s page on Racism

Jesuit Social Research Institute

Lift Every Voice: A Lenten Journey Towards Racial Justice

Ignatian Solidarity Network

Racism as Soul Sickness: Interview with Bryan Massingale

Bill McCormick, SJ (Ignatian Solidarity Network) 

Racial Justice and the Catholic Church

Fr. Bryan Massingale

Against Racism and Incarceration

Colorizing Restorative Justice
Voicing Our Realities

Edited by Edward C. Valandra, Waŋbli Wapȟáha Hokšíla

Foreword by Justice Robert G. Yazzie

Support Black-Owned Businesses: 181 Places to Start Online

Sophia Conti

Website Planet

Resources for Black Women and Criminal (In)justice: Missing Voices in the U.S. Incarceration Conversation

Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life

Georgetown University

The Little Book of Racial Healing
Coming to the Table for Truth-Telling, Liberation, and Transformation

Written by Thomas Norman DeWolf, Jodie Gedde

White Fragility

Robin DiAngelo, Phd

Lies My Teacher Told Me

James W Loewen

Equal Justice Initiative


A People's History of the United States

Howard Zinn

The Sentencing Project on Racial Disparity

The Sentencing Project

Slavery to Mass Incarceration


So you want to talk about race

Ijeoma Oluo

How to be Antiracist

Ibram X Kendi

A Different Mirror

Ronald Takaki

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Michelle Alexander

Prayer for Healing & Ending Racial Injustice