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The U.S., home to just five percent of the world population, holds 25% of the world’s prison population. There are 2.3 million people in the nation’s prisons and jails—a 500% increase in the past 40 years. The land of the free is the incarceration capital of the world.

Auburn Seminary, Ebenezer Baptist Church, The Temple, and other interfaith partners are collaborating on a national initiative to catalyze a faith-rooted response to mass incarceration. The initiative leverages the spiritual power, people power, and other resources in faith communities toward ongoing efforts on ending mass incarceration in America, and will convene a national conference on June 17-19, 2019 in Atlanta.


In no area of American society are the legacies of slavery and racism more clear than in the criminal justice system. Tracing its lineage through the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow, the genocide and multi-generational epidemic of mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex is a dominant expression of systemic racism in U.S. society today. Despite making up only 12% of the U.S. population, Black people make up 50% of the country’s prison population. Both Blacks and Latinx are more than twice as likely as others to be held in detention prior to trial, which increases the likelihood that they’ll be sentenced to incarceration after trial and for longer periods of time

While racial bias plays a key role, excessive sentencing laws and widespread socioeconomic inequality are also part of this complex problem. The cash bail system penalizes those without wealth, crowding jails with people who exist on the margins of the economy, lacking access to education and jobs. The result is a system that incarcerates people simply for being poor.

Even after the trauma and stigmatization of incarceration, former inmates face penalties including discrimination in housing and employment, the inability to vote, and exclusion from public benefits, student loans, and some professional licenses. Those who serve time in America’s prisons—or plead guilty in exchange for little or no actual prison time—face continued stigmas and compounded challenges as they are legally barred from full citizenship.



I thank God that He sent Ebenezer and Freedom Day Project to come and rescue us. The correction officers treated the inmates like animals. We were stuck in [a small] room and it was just humiliating and we had to be in there for 20 hours a day.” -

LaQuanda Smith

Ebenezer Baptist Church raised $50,000 to free 10 people held in pretrial detentions. LaQuanda Smith was among those freed.