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Hearing the Cries for Justice
January 30, 2018
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral

147 NW 19th Ave, Portland
Travel stipends are available for registered participants traveling from Southern or Eastern Oregon.  

Registration will be available after November 6.
Download an event flyer.

Due to our generous sponsors at the Episcopal Church in Oregon, the conference is subsided to allow more people to participate. Your $10 registration fee goes toward costs of meals and refreshments, but no one will be turned away due to lack of funds. Additional donations are welcomed by clicking here: designate donation as "Criminal Justice Reform."

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In partnership with the Episcopal Church in Oregon, EMO is excited to host a new conference focused on how communities can engage in criminal justice reform and support persons reentering society from prison. With an interfaith community focus, the convocation will highlight existing work that Oregon groups are doing, emphasizing how individuals and congregations can work for justice and help serve this often-overlooked population. 

Hearing the Cries: The Welcome Home Convocation will bring together people of faith and goodwill for information, inspiration, and training to engage in prison ministries and the deeper social issues behind our legal system. The specific emphasis of the convocation will be to equip and motivate faith communities to engage in the ministry of hospitality for persons returning from prison, and supporting families of the incarcerated. 

Who Should Attend the Welcome Home Conference?

  1. People of faith and goodwill interested in learning more about the criminal justice system and ways they can get involved in service and advocacy.
  2. Faith leaders looking to expand their capacity to serve persons with loved ones in prison, or with criminal records.
  3. Persons with lived experience of the legal system.
  4. People with loved ones in prison or jail. 
  5. People who want to volunteer in prison ministries or as prison reentry mentors . 

Individuals are welcome to attend. We especially invite teams of five or more members from a single congregation to attend as a group. If a team of members attend the convocation, their congregation can be designated as a member of EMO’s new Welcome Home Network, which provides official recognition of the congregation’s commitment to be a welcoming place for persons returning from prison or jail, and for family members with loved ones in prison or jail.  Members of the Welcome Home Network commit to try to be “communities of support & accountability,” in whatever ways your congregation can do so. EMO staff will provide encouragement and resources to support WH Network members throughout the year, as a follow up to the convocation. Each community will express that commitment in their own ways, through a combination of advocacy work, educational opportunities, and service ministries, as well as participation in the Welcome Home conference to equip them in their work. If you or your congregation is interested in learning more, please visit our website at www.CoSAOregon.org or email cosa@emoregon.org

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Not everyone has been to prison. Not everyone even knows someone who's been to prison. But a lot more of us do know and love people who have been to prison than we might think. And it's a good bet that your faith community might already have members with criminal records or who have loved ones who are incarcerated - even if they might not feel comfortable sharing that fact. This new conference will equip communities to journey alongside people with criminal histories, starting by feeling able to talk about it. 

While it feels like the criminal justice system operates on the margins of society, a large number of people are in fact impacted by it: persons in jails and prisons and on probation; staff in correctional facilities, law enforcement, and the judicial system; victims of crime and violence; communities impacted by crime and by disproportionate incarceration; family members with loved ones in prison.  

Further, recent political events make clear that even if only a minority of the US population sees the inside of a correctional facility, the entire social order - including race and economic status - exists and functions through its use of its criminal justice system. Every taxpayer and voter is taking part in shaping a society that decides which actions are deemed right or wrong, and which groups of people are treated as criminals (and which are deemed "too big" to fail/jail). 

The agenda for the Hearing the Cries conference includes an opening keynote panel addressing the full body, highlighting both the voices of clergy advocating for criminal justice reform as a matter of faith and agency officials who welcome the help of congregations in connecting their “clients” to long-term pro-social communities. Break-out workshops, led by local leaders and persons with personal experience, will provide in-depth training on tools for ministries of support and accountability to subset populations, covering a variety of timely topics:

  • Women in prison
  • Supporting children and families of the incarcerated
  • Recovery and substance abuse
  • Restorative justice approaches in the legal system
  • Human trafficking
  • Immigrant rights in the justice system
  • Mass incarceration and racial injustice 
  • Reentry challenges for sex offenders
  • Practical, creative ways Oregon faith communities are serving people impacted by the legal system

In the workshops and keynote addresses, the convocation will bridge both service to individuals and policy change for the benefit of society. As a takeaway, convocation participants will receive resources about ways to continue their learning about the legal system and its injustices, and also invitations to volunteer in various prison ministries, including EMO’s existing projects, including the Criminal Justice Sabbath.  

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