“For the LORD is a God of justice…” Isaiah 30:18
As we’ve said before, the words “imprisoned children” simply don’t belong together – ever. What drove us to Uganda in the first place was the stunning realization that there are children who live in prison for years with little hope of getting out.
They live in conditions that are deplorable – they are neglected, lack adequate food and medical care, and miss formative years of education and social development. Worst of all – they have no voice. They are the weakest of the weak. They barely have access to the judicial part of the system that confines them and there’s no one to take up their cause… until now.
We can’t stand by any longer.
For over two years, we have worked to bring relief and rehabilitation to the children: relief for those who are confined and rehabilitation for those who could be removed. Along the way we’ve seen firsthand many children mired down in a system that simply doesn’t have the capacity to handle them. No matter how you look at it, this is unjust.
When it comes to justice, Scripture doesn’t mince words. There are well over 2,000 verses that speak to God’s passion for justice and His utter abhorrence of injustice. In fact, it’s so basic to the faith that indifference to justice and the plight of the poor raises serious questions about salvation. As John Piper has said, when the Gospel takes root we care about all human suffering – both present and eternal.
So SixtyFeet is adding another pillar to the ministry. In addition to relief and rehabilitation, we are adding an unwavering pursuit of justice for these children. With all of our being, we will passionately take up the cause of the fatherless and defend the rights of the needy.
What will this look like? So far it’s taken on two forms.
In 2010, we were introduced to Bob Goff at Restore International. Bob introduced us to one of the Deans at Pepperdine Law School (Jim Gash). Through these relationships, we have had the privilege of participating in a pilot program that Dean Gash and others developed called J-FASTER (Judiciary Facilitating Access to a Swift Trial and Efficient Resolution).
The main goal is to introduce plea-bargaining into the juvenile justice system and provide the children access to the courts so their case is heard and quickly resolved. Two separate sessions were held this year with great success (which we will share in a separate blog post in the coming days). In connection with this, we were able to bring on our first legal intern – Abby Skeans from Regent Law School. Given the initial successes, we truly pray this program is allowed to continue and expand into the other remand homes.
As J-FASTER was rolling out, it became clear that a database would need to be created to monitor the children and track their cases. Currently, there is no such tracking system in the remand homes (other than paper records). In collaboration with Pepperdine Law School and the Ugandan government, SixtyFeet is working to create a national database that can be used to better track the children once they enter the system. The information gathered (such as biographical, medical, and criminal history) will also permit us to provide better care in the remand homes and support the resettlement efforts when they are released.
The database will facilitate organization and efficiency in the system but may also have uses outside of juvenile justice. Once established, it could even be introduced in other countries that have similar needs.
If it’s not obvious, we’re a little excited about what God is doing, the partnerships He has formed and the prospects for bringing justice to the children. And we wanted to thank you for being a part of it! Your donations are supporting one of the most ambitious juvenile justice projects we know of, the ripple effects of which (we pray) are felt throughout Uganda and beyond.
“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24