A consultation on the complex issues surrounding criminal justice in the United States has been scheduled for Feb. 16 – 18, 2012 at Stony Point Conference Center in New York.

This consultation ― authorized by the 2010 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ― is the result of collaborative efforts on the part of  the Presbyterian Health Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA), the Presbytery of Hudson River and the Presbytery of New York City.

The two presbyteries petitioned the Assembly to restore the denomination’s criminal justice program, which was cut in 2006 due to staff  and budget reductions.  In response to those overtures, the Assembly called for a consultation to explore the development of a new PHEWA network around criminal justice issues.

Consultation planning team co-leaders ― Hans Hallundbaek, a Commissioned Lay Pastor in Hudson River Presbytery, and the Rev. Annie Rawlings of New York City Presbytery ― say they are committed to developing strategies that will lead to an effective criminal justice network. 

“The basis of any effective network is meeting real needs,” says Hallunbaek. “We appeal to those who are deeply involved, those who visit prisoners, and those involved in the court and probation processes to consider participation in this consultation.”

Rawlings adds  “We believe that thousands more lives damaged by crime and incarceration can be changed in the direction of healing by wise Christian engagement and God’s redemptive Spirit.”

Hallunbaek and Rawlings are asking that interested Presbyterians “share this notice” with others who are engaged in criminal justice work and ministry. More information is available by emailing phewainfo@gmail.com

Confirmed presenters for the consultation include Brian Fisher, superintendent of the New York State Department of Corrections; Glen Martin, vice president of the Fortune Society which advocates for rehabilitation and incarceration alternatives; T. Richard Snyder, former dean of New York Theological Seminary and author of The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Punishment; the Rev. Sala Nolan Gonzalez, head of the Criminal Justice and Human Rights Witness of the United Church of Christ; and Laura Merkle Downton, grassroots coordinator of the Criminal Justice Reform unit of the Office of Church and Society for the United Methodist Church.

They will be joined by the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, director of the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness, General Assembly Mission Council, in Washington, DC, and Attorney Julia Thorne of the Immigration Office, Office of the General Assembly.

More consultation details will be released in October.