Over at America magazine, I report on a study the Catholic bishops’ anti-poverty initiative, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, is undertaking to explore how harsh sentencing guidelines often exacerbate the poverty cycle.

From the article:

Ralph McCloud, the head of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (C.C.H.D.), said that sentencing guidelines harm minority communities by creating a disenfranchised class of American citizens that is increasingly unable to integrate back into society. C.C.H.D. carries out the bishops’ anti-poverty vision by funding a variety of nonprofits working on the ground, with grants this year exceeding $9 million. Many of the groups that the C.C.H.D. funds are increasingly looking at sentencing guidelines as they grapple with how to eradicate poverty most efficiently and effectively. They’re asking questions, including, “Are they fair? Are they treating everybody the same? Are they biased against people who don’t have representation, who don’t have counsel? Are they biased against people who are minorities?” McCloud, who previously worked on social justice issues in Texas, explained. He said that many C.C.H.D.-funded organizations report that reforming sentencing guidelines could be the best antidote to lessening poverty.

Dylan Corbett, C.C.H.D.’s mission identity and outreach coordinator, said that the effect of mass incarceration on the poverty cycle can be seen clearly through the sentencing guidelines that accompany minor drug offenses and the growing influence of private prison systems.

Categories: Beliefs

Michael J. O'Loughlin

Michael J. O'Loughlin

Michael J. O’Loughlin writes about religion and politics from Washington, D.C., paying close attention to the role of the Catholic Church in public life. His writing has appeared in Religion & Politics, the Jesuit magazine America, on BustedHalo.com, and in Duke Divinity School’s Faith & Leadership.


  1. That’s a distraction from the fact that they still have not honestly nor fully tackled the horror of clerical and religious sexual abuse of minors. Yet they continue to presume to dictate sexuality and family life to church members. The bishops must put an end to their crimes in these matters. They need to stop lying about everything worldly while pretending to be the messengers of truth about matters other-worldly. The church’s bishops, world-wide, have lost both religious and secular credibility.

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