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A prison courtyard in Ohio, US A prison courtyard in Ohio, US 

US Bishops hail moves to promote racial equity on housing and prisons

Two US Bishops’ Conference Committee Chairmen welcome recent executive actions aimed at promoting racial equality in housing and the criminal justice system in the United States.

By Vatican News staff writer

USCCB Committee chairman on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City, and USCCB Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism Chairman, Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, hail government moves to restore protections against housing discrimination and reduce government reliance on privately-operated criminal detention facilities.

The White House last week issued an executive order reforming the nation’s incarceration system by eliminating the renewal of Department of Justice contracts with privately operated criminal detention facilities. It noted that many of them underperform when compared to Federal correctional services, and do not maintain the same levels of safety and security for people in the Federal criminal justice system or for correctional staff.

President Joe Biden also issued a memorandum directing the Federal Government to work with communities to end housing discrimination, provide redress to those who have experienced it and eliminate racial bias and other forms of discrimination in all stages of home-buying and renting. The government will also lift barriers that restrict housing and neighborhood choice to promote inclusive and diverse communities and ensure equal access to housing opportunities for all.

The memorandum specifically calls on the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to examine changes made last year by the Trump administration to several rules, including the "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing" rule and the HUD’s implementation of the "Fair Housing Act’s Disparate Impact Standard" to see if the actions had a detrimental impact on access to fair housing.

Steps in the right direction

In a statement on Monday, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City and the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism Chairman, Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, hailed the administrations recent moves to promote racial equity.

They noted that the executive order directing the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to examine the effect of repealing the “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” is “a step in the right direction” to restoring needed protections against housing discrimination.

“The federal government has a critical role to play in overcoming and redressing our nation’s history of discrimination,” the Bishops said, adding that they hoped the administration follows through on “the important work of promoting fair housing and human dignity.”

In the same vein, the Bishops applauded the announcement that the Justice Department will not renew contracts with private prisons, adding that they “have long questioned the efficacy of private companies running prisons.”

Currently, a significant percentage of the more than two million prisoners in the United States are being held in privately-operated facilities.

The Bishops concluded their statement encouraging the recently-inaugurated government “to consider similar policies in the future regarding civil immigration detention facilities.”

03 February 2021, 15:56