Sisters and Brothers,
The Episcopal Church and its Diocese of Florida have a long-standing relationship with Jessie Ball duPont and the Center established by her that is her legacy. We have been partners, first with her and then the Jessie Ball duPont Center in many ventures, over many decades.
This Diocese also has a long-standing and deep interest in prisoners. We believe that this interest reflects the clear command of our Lord, at both the beginning and end of his ministry, see Lk. 4 and Matt. 25. The fruits have been very significant and include over a dozen Episcopal churches inside of prisons, the birth of the Kairos movement of in-reach to prisoners, suggesting and advocating for the creation of faith and character-based prisons in Florida (with low recidivism rates), and even helping birth a justice reform think tank at FSU.
Those lines crossed when, in the light of the events of last year, Jessie Ball duPont Fund CEO Mari Kuraishi contacted the Diocese and suggested an interest in beginning the exploration the issue of justice in Jacksonville, the home and focus of Mrs. duPont and her legacy. We were delighted to respond with a request for a planning grant, the results of which are herein.
As Providence, would have it, the request combined with access to two incredible resources beyond those within the Diocese. Deborrah Fabian, former director of the Project on Accountable Justice at FSU was between postings. In addition, Dr. Paula Horvath, an editorial writer at the Jacksonville Times-Union, faculty member for 25 years at the University of North Florida, and a strident voice for justice reform in both venues, was recently retired and itching to return to the fray. These two people have been major forces in justice reform for over a decade in Florida.
The collaboration of all was proposed for a planning grant and accepted by all. The results are presented here, but it should be noted that they represent a distinctly different approach than most used before. This time we decided to look directly to the people for their thoughts, strength, and hope. We held the door open to listen to people’s varied experiences within and around the challenges of violence that Jacksonville faces. The results have been illuminating at the least.
It is hoped that we have created a place of departure for a much deeper community conversation, about crime and the underlying issues that we all face because there is no way for one end of a boat to sink without it affecting all aboard.
In the end, to quote Martin Luther King, Jr., this must all become about reconciliation, or we are all doomed. We have a long road to go to get there, but let the journey begin now, while we still have time. We are grateful to be a point of departure for the journey.
Rev. Dr. Allison DeFoor+
Commission of Prison and Related Ministries
Diocese of Florida