The University of Chicago News Office
April 5, 2002 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
(773) 702-6421

Conference to explore role of mercy in criminal justice

In 1999, nearly 1.5 million children in the United States had at least one parent in prison. Today, nearly 14 million Americans, mostly minorities, will spend most of their lives behind bars. And the trend toward punishment is global: Amnesty International reports rising incarceration rates for both international refugees and political prisoners worldwide. Expert panelists will examine these critical issues from legal and theological perspectives at a conference at the University of Chicago Divinity School April 12-13, "Doing Justice to Mercy: Contemporary Problems and Prospects in Criminal Justice."

The conference organizers explain that "the facts of longer sentences, growing prison populations, and widespread capital punishment in recent decades point to a systemic move toward more punitive criminal justice. We aim to foster a debate on the role of mercy in this system: What intellectual resources can be marshaled to rethink criminal justice, whether as deterrence, punishment, rehabilitation or restoration? How do we balance the suffering of offenders and the suffering of victims?"

The conference, sponsored by the Martin E. Marty Center and the University of Chicago Law School, runs from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, April 12 and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 13 at Swift Hall, 1025 East 58th St. at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Panels will range from legal questions like "Balancing Legal Justice and Mercy" to theological challenges like "Thinking the Death of Jesus as Execution."

Participants include David Scheffer, the Clinton administration’s U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues and former Counsel to Madeleine Albright; University of Chicago theologian William Schweiker, author of Responsibility and Christian Ethics; Marc Mauer, author of Race to Incarcerate; and legal scholars including noted criminal justice expert Albert Altschuler and former Cook County Public Defender Randolph Stone, both faculty members at the University of Chicago Law School.

A complete program and participant list are available at:
Last modified at 11:29 AM CST on Friday, April 05, 2002.

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