Greater Cleveland Congregations stand for a united community

News Desk | 5/28/2014, 9:52 a.m.
“Cuyahoga County continues to prosecute low-level, non-violent drug offenders for felonies, meaning that after having served a sentence for drug ...

Greater Cleveland Congregations (GCC), an interfaith organization committed to transforming education, reforming the criminal justice system and expanding health care access and equity, will lead

1,000 community members in a call for action on important issues of gun violence and excessive incarceration for low-level offenses.

In its initiative to reduce gun violence, GCC will:

Call on local law enforcement agencies to create a countywide initiative to choke the pipeline of illegal guns and hold accountable those responsible for their flow into our neighborhoods;

Harness the economic leverage of local governments’ firearm purchasing to create a U.S. market for firearms with safety technology to prevent accidental shootings and firing if lost or stolen.

“We have a gun crisis in our community,” said Fairmount Temple’s Rabbi Joshua Caruso, co-chair of GCC. “This is not an urban crisis, or a suburban one, or Christian or Jewish or Muslim crisis. Illegal guns are too easy to obtain and proliferate on our streets, among criminals and our children.”

Lax distribution systems favor the flood of illegal guns in our community and the gun manufacturers and sellers who profit from them. GCC is asking for law enforcement agencies throughout Cuyahoga County to work together and to prioritize investigations that find illegal guns and trace them to their source. Our children can readily find illegal guns. Law enforcement agencies must trace them and halt their flow before they reach our streets.

GCC’s assembly of faith and lay members of the community who will gather Thursday also will call on County Prosecutor Tim McGinty to accelerate his efforts to shut down the “felon factory” in Cuyahoga County, which has about twice the number of felony commitments to state prisons as Franklin and Hamilton counties do. Mr. McGinty plans to attend the event and will speak.

Rev. Jawanza Colvin, of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, who also serves as GCC’s co-chair, said the practice is harming our neighborhoods and our families. He cited an exhaustive new report of the National Academy of Sciences that included the finding that the number of children with fathers in prison soared from

350,000 to 2.1 million between1980 to 2000. The study found small crime prevention effects of long prison sentences and likely high financial, social and human costs of incarceration, with the harsh penal policies of the last 40 years falling most heavily on African Americans and Hispanics, especially the poorest.

“Cuyahoga County continues to prosecute low-level, non-violent drug offenders for felonies, meaning that after having served a sentence for drug use, they still serve a life sentence as a felon, unable to break free from their addiction, the stigma or the system that has halted their social mobility and economic opportunities,”

Rev. Colvin said.

Rabbi Caruso and Rev. Colvin are among several who will speak at the action to explain the strategies, the facts that are driving them and GCC’s next steps to ensure their success. Other speakers include:

Rev. Richard Gibson of Elizabeth Baptist Church in Cleveland. Rev. Lisa Hackney of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights. Bishop Douglas Miles of Koinonia Baptist Church in Baltimore, MD. And Community members whose lives have been affected by gun violence and prosecutorial actions for minor offenses.