Criminal Justice

The Church and Criminal Justice: Hearing the Cries presents a comprehensive perspective on matters related to the U.S. criminal justice system and the many communities affected by this system. The statement affirms the principles of the U.S. criminal justice system but also reveals the desperate cries that reflect the system’s serious deficiencies. It recognizes that many people in the system serve their professional vocations with competent and humane performance. Yet it also recognizes that current approaches, such as the emphasis on mass incarceration, impose significant costs on all involved in the system and on society as a whole. These approaches are founded on an underlying punitive mindset and persistent inequalities based on race and class.

Drawing from the biblical witness to God’s rich forms of love and justice for all people, the ELCA is compelled by a holy yearning to address the need for changing public attitudes and postures, and to call for dramatic reforms in policies and practices in the criminal justice system. This statement was adopted by the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.


Social Statement (en)



Social Statement (esp)



Follow these links to find resources for understanding this social statement:


Called to Hear: A Study Guide

Criminal Justice Study Guide

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