(Photography by JM Tosses, CC BY-NC 2.0)
Who would Jesus incarcerate?
Rev. Alexander Sharp, MDiv’96, on Clergy for a New Drug Policy.
Last Wednesday Rev. Alexander Sharp, MDiv’96, spoke at the Divinity School’s weekly community lunch. His organization, Clergy for a New Drug Policy, seeks to bring an end to the “war on drugs.” Highlights from his talk have been edited and adapted.

“In Luke 4:18–19, Jesus said he was anointed to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, to let the oppressed go free. Nothing has done more to create captives than the war on drugs. “Jesus didn’t say a lot about retribution. To the woman who was caught in adultery, he said, ‘Go and sin no more.’ Jesus talked about mercy and forgiveness. He didn’t try to make people better through force. Arresting people and putting them in jail is an act of force. “People of faith have really not come out on this issue. We’re silent, which I think is morally wrong. White suburban areas haven’t been hit by the war on drugs. There’s a whole different arrest pattern in the impoverished areas in Chicago. “We haven’t said anything about the war on drugs until the heroin crisis, when there have been so many deaths by overdose. “Then last May, in Gloucester, Massachusetts, the police chief said, ‘I can’t stand this anymore. If you bring your stuff here, I’ll try to find you treatment.’ He became a national figure. In the Chicago suburban area, the police chief of Mundelein did the same thing. Not just for heroin—all drugs. “I know a lot of people in this room are going to become ministers. If you care about social justice, then you should work for criminal justice reform. As a Christian, you can’t allow this to happen.”

Three book recommendations—

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness Michelle Alexander (The New Press, 2010) “I consider it the contemporary Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Read it if you haven’t.” The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Punishment T. Richard Snyder (W. B. Eerdmans, 2001) “It’s about the pipeline from neighborhood to prison, with maybe a brief stop-off for school.” Regulating Vice: Misguided Prohibitions and Realistic Contols Jim Leitzel, director of public policy studies in the College (Cambridge University Press, 2008) “He also has a Ted talk [TedxUChicago, 2011] on this. The book looks at drug use, gambling, pornography, prostitution. To oppress them with violence creates so much more damage.”