St. Louis Mission Trip – Day 4
Day four of the mission trip was long. Really, really long. We began at Mission: St. Louis, as part of a massive cleanup effort. There were a couple hundred volunteers working to clean up the neighborhoods around Mission: St. Louis. Our group was walking around picking up trash while other groups were cutting grass and making the area look better.
Our group, along with our new friends from Virginia, walked around in the St. Louis heat picking up trash and trying to help make the area better. Several residents who saw us thanked us for our efforts. On the return back to Mission: St. Louis, we had a local reporter interview us about what we were doing. (As soon as we find the link to the article, we will post it.)
We must have collected at least 20 large bags of trash in our several block walk.
After lunch, we went to General Assembly for the first time, where we participated in a march from GA to the St. Louis’ Justice Center. The march was a protest against cash bails, as that usually impacts those without the financial resources to get out of jail. The Presbyterian Church (USA) raised over $47,000 to bail minor offenders from jail. Some of these offenders were in jail for traffic violations and other minor misdemeanors. As part of the rally and march, we learned about how Philadelphia and other cities are doing away with cash bail for minor offenses. The new District Attorney in Philadelphia proposed a plan where there is no cash bail for 26 minor offenses. It is estimated that of the 6100 people in the Philly jails, about 20% of them are for bail related issues. Following the new DA’s plan, at least 10% of those will be set free until their trial. Six hundred and ten people would be able to go home to their families and continue to work until they are given a proper trial. The cash bail system punishes those who do not have the resources to get out of jail, essentially saying those people are guilty until proven innocent.
The people who were bailed out were most likely happy to be able to return home. They came from a prison called The Workhouse, where there is no AC nor heat. Rats and roaches have infested The Workhouse and the food the inmates are served usually is not fit for animals.
Our evening devotion was filled with plenty of discussion about what it would mean to release those people with minor offenses and how Jesus would react. What would Jesus think about cash bails? What would Jesus think of setting the prisoners free? What does Jesus tell us about how we should deal with the captives? These and many more questions filled up our over 90 minute discussions.