Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Workers within the criminal justice system cry out

This week I have been weeping with those who weep, especially saddened at the violent death of many police officers. It had me going back to the recent ELCA social statement on criminal justice, where I read this passage:

Workers within the criminal justice system cry out. Many work in challenging cir- cumstances where violence and emotional trauma are common. Most ex- perience intense stress, yet are expected to respond to tension or violence calmly. Their professional challenges are rarely recognized or respected. 
Police regularly manage the stress of dangerous and unpredictable situa- tions, and are expected to intervene rationally and maintain a professional attitude in trying situations. Those who work in the courts desire to earn public trust and must balance responsibilities to many, including victims and offenders, families and communities. Large caseloads make it difficult to treat people as individuals. They rarely walk away from their work unaf- fected since they bear the burden of knowing the potential consequences of rendering a verdict or sentence. 
Correctional staff, administrators, counselors and chaplains face tense and demanding conditions. Those who work in victim services programs listen daily to painful stories and struggle to keep their own emotional balance.

In my visits with police officers, correctional staff, and those who work in the courts, I find this summary poignant and true. We have, to a considerable degree as a culture contributed to the very problems these folks are at work rectifying, not the least of which is the terrible hyper-abundance of guns in our country, and a criminal justice system that struggles under the weight of for-profit interests and a culture that attempts to shunt corrections and reparative justice to the sidelines.

This week, as we pray and prepare for Labor Day, let's include all these workers in our prayers.

Prince of Peace, look in kindness on all communities who are affected by violence. Protect those who serve as police officers and other first responders, and all those who work in the criminal justice system, that they might contribute to actions that lead to repair and peace. Take from us all injustice and violence, O You who overcame both injustice and violence by the love of Your cross and resurrection. We ask the gift of peace from You, our Prince of Peace. Amen.

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