Through policies, legislation, and social attitudes based in racism, the United States has maintained 50 years of mass incarceration, which has brought about devastation to individuals, families, and entire communities, especially communities of color. Yet, even in the midst of institutionalized societally sanctioned oppression, glimpses can be seen of a justice system that protects the rights of individuals where victims of crime find healing and where those accused of committing harm find accountability and restoration. On Thursday, September 14 from 7-8:30 pm, you are invited to join experts, pastors, theologians, and those directly impacted by injustice to reimagine public safety that authentically includes all people. Our hope is that together the retributive nature of mass incarceration can be transformed into a justice system that heals and restores.
Rev. Delonte Gholston
Rev Delonte Gholston is a native Washingtonian whose parents moved to the city to escape racial terrorism in South Carolina and Georgia. He is faithfully and joyfully married to Claire Wiggins Gholston. Together they have two daughters, Evyn (5) and Olive (2). They live in Ward 7 where Pastor Delonte shepherds Peace Fellowship Church and organizes PeaceWalksDC, a coalition of churches, community organizations, survivors and advocates committed to ending police and community violence. He is a public theologian, a songwriter and musician who loves singing about the change we want to see. He is a proud alumnae of DC public schools, Swarthmore College and Fuller Theological Seminary.
Lisa Sharon Harper
From Ferguson to New York, and from Germany to South Africa, Australia and Brazil, Lisa Sharon Harper leads trainings that increase clergy and community leaders’ capacity to organize people of faith toward a just world. A prolific speaker, writer and activist, Ms. Harper is the founder and president of Freedom Road, a consulting group dedicated to shrinking the narrative gap in our nation by designing forums and experiences that bring common understanding, common commitment and common action.
Ms. Harper is the author of several books, including Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican…or Democrat (The New Press, 2008); Left Right and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (Elevate, 2011); Forgive Us: Confessions of a Compromised Faith (Zondervan, 2014); the critically acclaimed, The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong can be Made Right (Waterbrook, a division of Penguin Random House, 2016); and Fortune: How Race Broke My Family—And How To Repair It All (Brazos, 2022). Englewood Review of Books recognized The Very Good Gospel as the “2016 Book of the Year” and Fortune as one the “Best Books of 2022”.
A columnist at Sojourners Magazine and an Auburn Theological Seminary Senior Fellow, Ms. Harper has appeared on TVOne, FoxNews Online, NPR, and Al Jazeera America. Her writing has been featured in CNN Belief Blog, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The National Civic Review, Sojourners, The Huffington Post, Relevant Magazine, and Essence Magazine. She writes extensively on shalom and governance, immigration reform, health care reform, poverty, racial and gender justice, climate change, and transformational civic engagement.
Ms. Harper earned her Masters degree in Human Rights from Columbia University in New York City in 2006. In 2023, she facilitated a one-day dialogue to action process with Evangelical Scholars at the Oxford Colloquium on Racialized Christian Nationalism in Oxford, Great Britain. Ms. Harper and Freedom Road are currently partnering with The Carter Center to move 13 key Evangelical Institutions through a 3-year Truth-Telling process. Having served as Sojourners Chief Church Engagement Officer, Ms. Harper fasted for 22 days as a core faster in 2013 with the immigration reform Fast for Families. She trained and catalyzed evangelicals in St. Louis and Baltimore to engage the 2014 push for justice in Ferguson and the 2015 healing process in Baltimore, and she educated faith leaders in South Africa to pull the levers of their new democracy toward racial equity and economic inclusion.
In 2015, The Huffington Post named Ms. Harper one of 50 powerful women religious leaders to celebrate on International Women’s Day. In 2019, The Religion Communicators Council named a two-part series within Ms. Harper’s monthly Freedom Road Podcast “Best Radio or Podcast Series of The Year”. The series focused on The Roots and Fruits of Immigrant Labor Exploitation in the US. And in 2020 Ms. Harper received The Bridge Award from The Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth and Reconciliation in recognition of her dedication to bridging divides and building the beloved community.
Matt also teaches as an adjunct professor in American University’s department of Justice Law and Criminology, where he teaches an undergraduate class on the history and purpose of the legal system, and a graduate level course on pre-trial justice, jails, bail and risk assessments. All his classes explore the role of racism and racial bias in the administration of justice, and challenge students to fight for a more equitable, less racist, and radically reimagined system of justice.
Matt previously worked as the Director of Training Programs at JustLeadershipUSA, one of the few criminal legal system reform organizations led exclusively by formerly incarcerated individuals, where he provided training and program leadership to over three hundred formerly incarcerated and legal system impacted leaders.
Named a “New Civil Rights Leader” by Essence Magazine for her work to challenge mass incarceration, Nicole D. Porter manages The Sentencing Project’s state and local advocacy efforts on sentencing reform, voting rights, and confronting racial disparities in the criminal legal system.
Since joining The Sentencing Project in 2009, Porter’s advocacy and findings have supported criminal legal reforms in several states including Kentucky, Maryland Missouri, California, Texas and the District of Columbia. Porter’s areas of expertise include research and grassroots support around challenging racial disparities, felony disenfranchisement, in addition to prison closures and prison reuse. Her research has been cited in several major media outlets including Salon and the Washington Post, and she has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, and on National Public Radio and MSNBC. Porter has also been invited to speak on state sentencing policy, collateral consequences, and racial disparity to various audiences including the League of Women Voters, NAACP, and the United Methodist Women’s Assembly and on Capitol Hill. She has authored reports highlighting ballot access for people detained in jails, state prison closures and declining prison populations, in addition to articles on the collateral impacts of justice involvement on communities of color and how current social movements are challenging mass incarceration. Porter is the former director of the Texas ACLU’s Prison & Jail Accountability Project (PJAP) where she advocated in the Texas legislature to promote felony enfranchisement reforms, eliminate prison rape, and improve prison medical care. Porter received her undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University and a Master of Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Austin. Her master’s thesis addressed exploring self employment among formerly incarcerated African Americans. She also studied African politics at the University of Ghana, West Africa.
Joel Castón is the first person in the history of Washington, D.C. to be elected to public office while incarcerated. In 2020, he won a groundbreaking election garnering local and nationwide attention. Drawing on the wisdom of 27 years of direct involvement with the criminal justice system, Commissioner Castón works closely with the DC government, policymakers, advocacy groups, and organizations to change the culture of mass incarceration. Before assuming his role as commissioner, Castón was the co-founding mentor of the Young Men Emerging (YME) community at the DC Jail. In 2018, Castón self-published his popular investment modules titled, Currency Catchers, available on Amazon.