On Easter Sunday close to 1 billion Christians across the world will commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This Easter Sunday, I have decided to reflect on those who have been demonized and disparaged by America’s 40 year drug war.
Today many of our communities are forced to grapple with conditions akin to the socio- political and economic concerns that were the hallmark of Jesus’ ministry: social neglect and economic disinvestment of black and brown communities, political disenfranchisement, criminalization of the poor and the stigmatization of those who are different.
Living in the age of mass criminalization and mass incarceration causes me to question current policies that punish rather than restore the humanity of my brothers and sisters who are drug users and prisoners – neighbors and friends in our midst who may have done real or perceived harm to themselves or society. Should redemption be denied to the drug user or the convicted? Who am I to judge and condemn my neighbor?
To ignore these questions is to deny or diminish the central theme of Jesus’ message. So this Easter I am committed to remembering the entirety of Jesus’ ministry – his advocacy on behalf of the poor, sick and oppressed is as poignant and pertinent today as it was two thousand years ago.
I am constantly saddened by the fact that in 2012, there were more than 1.5 million drug arrests in the United States, and by the destructive effects of mass incarceration and mass criminalization on communities of color. The criminalization of poor and People of Color is a moral and criminal injustice that should be lifted up as our 21st century crucifixion, if the ministry of Jesus is to have full meaning and resonance this Resurrection Sunday.
As a Christian I cannot help but take my cloak of mercy, compassion and justice and cover those who have been unfairly burdened by the scourge of a criminal conviction and the stigma associated with problematic drug use. Let us commit to ending the further marginalization and discrimination of our brothers and sisters, and to dismantling unjust systems purportedly designed to protect us from each other.
This Easter Sunday I hope you will join me in contemplating what the rebirth and restoration of individuals and communities negatively impacted by the drug war and mass criminalization would look like from a Christian perspective. Ending over criminalization and the drug war should be a religious and moral imperative as we work to realize the Kingdom of God here on earth.
Yolande Cadore is the director of Strategic Partnerships for the Drug Policy Alliance and a Young Adult Minister at her local church.