December 9 – Restoration, Not Retribution

By: Thaddaeus Elliott, Justice and Peace Policy Fellow, Washington DC Office, UCC National

The Sovereign One sets the prisoners free; the Sovereign One opens the hearts that are hardened. The Sovereign One lifts up those who are bowed down; the Sovereign One loves the righteous. The Sovereign One watches over the strangers and upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked God brings to ruin (from Psalm 146:5-10).


“Prisons do not disappear social problems, they disappear human beings.
Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy
are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view
when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages.”
– Angela Davis

God takes no prisoners. God frees. God softens hearts that have been hardened. They take those who have been burdened and bent and set them upright. In the scriptures, upright is a synonym for righteous. The psalmist’s words of thanks and praise offer us a vision of a God that does justice not by imprisoning and ruining us who have done wicked things, but by setting us right as an act of steadfast love.

So, do prisons have a place in God’s kindom? What is the good news for the nearly 2 million people held as prisoners across our nation’s disparate “justice” system? That’s not to say there aren’t any who have done wicked things amongst those incarcerated. There certainly are. But the shalom Christ brings is one where all those created in God’s image can be restored to live free and whole. Shackles and cages neither heal the harmed or those who cause harm. As faithful people, we know that love and mercy can. We must create a justice system that centers restoration for all, not retribution. Until then, we are all prisoners.


Inhale: Waiting, I hear Freedom calling.

Exhale: There are no cages in the kindom.


“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” – Fannie Lou Hamer

Take Action

Practice Abolition

  • Advocate: Fight Mass Incarceration. Call on Congress to Pass Sentencing Reform
  • Dwell: Spend some time with The Abolitionist an inside-outside publication for abolitionist struggle & strategy across prison walls, featuring the analysis and reflections of currently and formerly incarcerated folks, as well as other abolitionist organizers.
  • Study: Check out Critical Resistance’s Video Project “Breaking Down the Prison Industrial Complex” and learn more about the complexities of this system in our country and our world.
Fight Mass Incarceration

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