Commissioners and advisory delegates will pause their debate and discernment Thursday evening for the Hand & Feet event, designed to explore the deep problems that have resulted from the nation’s cash bail system. Beginning at 6 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, that discussion can be viewed here.
For Thursday morning’s GA Live broadcast, Fred Tangeman, a reporter in the Office of the General Assembly, spoke with Amanda Craft, manager for Immigration Advocacy in the Office of Immigration Issues, part of the OGA. Watch their half-hour conversation here.
Craft, who organized Thursday’s Hands & Feet event, noted that the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, were joined during the recorded discussion by the Rev. Dr. Shannon Craigo-Snell, Professor of Theology at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, the PC(USA)’s Director of Advocacy. In addition, guests from The Bail Project in Louisville and from Central Florida Presbytery joined the discussion.
“Cash bail continues to be a systemic problem, especially for our siblings who live in poverty,” Craft told Tangeman. “It causes injustice and suffering for folks unable to pay for bail.” Even coming up with 10% of the bail bond, which could amount to $100 or so, “can be too much for some people to pay to get out” of jail during their pre-trial phase, Craft said. That could lead to job loss and children “being passed around” for care, solely because their parent or guardian can’t afford the cash bail.
“It’s a process that continues to make certain populations really struggle,” Craft said.
The march to end cash bail was the Hands & Feet focus of the 223rd General Assembly (2018) in St. Louis, Tangeman noted. Why, he asked Craft, is important for Presbyterians to maintain their focus on the cash bail system?
“Our faith calls us to be in our communities. How do we do that? Hands & Feet encourages people to understand that their faith is guided by what they’re witnessing in their community,” Craft replied. PC(USA) staff returned to Louisville following the St. Louis assembly “and wanted to understand the issue in Louisville. We did a march in Louisville and collected donations to The Bail Project,” which worked with many people arrested during the protests following the March 2020 police killing of Breonna Taylor.
“As Presbyterians, we embrace the opportunity to protest, to be part of the community that’s calling into question the injustices we are seeing,” Craft said. “We don’t want our faith to be restricted.”
Presbyterians can learn more about what can be done in their own community to end cash bail by visiting the Hands & Feet site, Craft said. “Learn if cash bail is used in your community so that you can start to address it. If it’s not an issue, think about walking with partners in your community … How is God calling us to transform injustice into mercy and love? Who’s at the table? Who might be missing? How do we engage them with grace, kindness, mercy and love?”
Craft also explained part of the work she did with GA committees working on immigration issues. “We often think the crisis is at the Southern border, but that’s a symptom of what’s happening across the world,” she told Tangeman. The PC(USA) and its forebears “have been speaking on issues of immigration since the 1880s. It’s long been near and dear to our hearts.”
At least one online viewer held up local efforts to walk alongside immigrants. Rachel Eggebeen noted that Pima County Justice for All is “working on a ballot initiative to provide a public defender for folks in deportation proceedings,” an initiative supported by Linda Ronstadt and many others. “You can also check out Keep Tucson Together, a local legal clinic,” Eggebeen wrote. “Presbyterian churches are also working with Casa Alitas to welcome migrants released from detention as they make travel plans to get to their families across the U.S.”
The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II is the scheduled guest for Friday’s broadcast of GA Live, which begins at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. Watch the conversation between Nelson and Tangeman here.