Criminal Justice Working Group

Seeking Just Ways to Respond: 

With the trial of former officer Derek Chauvin on trial for the killing of George Floyd, the CSJ Criminal Justice Working Group seeks ways to be in solidarity with our neighbors of color in Minneapolis and across the country.  One simply action of the group at this time is rallying support for Minnesota H.F. 553/S.F. 519.  This bill will help reduce the obstacles faced by those leaving incarceration.  Check out our CSJ Take Action page for more information.  Passing this legislation will help those being released from prison to have a healthier and more productive reintegration process. It is the right thing to do. 

In addition, the Working Group is also reading and discussing the “Preventing Police-Only Responses to Mental Health 911 Calls” CUAPB 2020 White Paper as another possible community response.  We invite you to also read and discuss this timely topic. 

Reflection:  The Need for Criminal Justice Reform in Minnesota

CSJs speak out for the Sanctity of all life: Reaffirming their Opposition to the Use of the Death Penalty

In recent weeks, there has been a dramatic increase in the use of the federal death penalty by our U.S. Government.  On October 26, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet’s Congregational Leadership Team released a public statement opposing this continued and increased use of the death penalty.

In addition, Sr. Cathy Steffens of the Justice Commission and the St. Paul Province Leadership Team amplified our voice on the injustices of the federal executions and the death penalty with a letter to the editor of the local Catholic Newspaper.  Read Sr. Cathy’s letter to the editor.

Check out additional advocacy opportunities related to Criminal Justice with the MN Second Chance Coalition or some of the advocacy options on our Justice Actions page.

Past Events

The Criminal Justice Working Group of the CSJ Justice Commission collaborated with St. Catherine University in welcoming Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ, to St. Paul on February 27, 2020.  The day was filled with opportunities to engage with Sr. Helen and her passionate work for justice.  Sr. Helen shared and inspired many with her “bags full of stories” from her life’s work as an activist against the death-penalty and from her latest memoir, “River of Fire.”

Over one hundred people gathered for a welcoming reception of Sr. Prejean at the Carondelet Village retirement community in the morning.  Then members of the Criminal Justice Working Group and CSJ Community wrote letters to our dear incarcerated neighbors and people on death row. On her visit’s final day, the group also hosted a lunch for Sr. Prejean that included stimulating conversation.  The highlight of the day for over 450 people was an evening gathering at St. Catherine University in which Sr. Helen shared during a public lecture.  Hundreds more watched via live-video stream to multiple locations, including residents at the Carondelet Village retirement community.   In her own words, Sr. Helen shared that she has become a warrior for justice because “what I saw set my soul on fire — a fire that burns in me still.”  These various events with Sr. Prejean in turn set our souls on fire to also do our own direct advocacy on a variety of timely criminal justice legislations in Minnesota.  Hundreds of signed advocacy postcards were collected by the community and will be delivered to our state elected officials in the coming weeks.

View Sr. Helen Prejean’s talk.

Mission and Goals

The Criminal Justice Working Group advocates for policy which focuses on rehabilitation instead of retribution. The Criminal Justice Working Group views restorative justice as an essential component in the healing of both victim and offender.

Goals for 2020-2021:

  • Participate in legislative advocacy and stay informed of local legislation on criminal justice reform
  • Connect with local leaders/criminal justice organizations to attend and share events, information and opportunities for us and others to take action with a focus on education
  • Continuing to work with the “Sisters Helping Sisters”
  • Collaborating with St. Kates and other working/task groups.
  • Supporting the Second Chance Coalition and their potential Day on the Hill at the Minnesota State Capitol 2021, whatever form this might take this coming year.

For more information contact Marty Roers at 651-690-7054 or

Working Group Highlights

Creating Community in Prison

Bold Moves for Real Change, Spring 2016 – Used with permission from the Ministries Foundation,

To Sisters of St. Joseph Ruth Brooker, CSJ and Baya Clare, CSJ, the “dear neighbor” also lives inside prison walls and behind bars. Their work with women at the Waseca, Minnesota, federal prison connects them with some of society’s most vulnerable and isolated people. But, they tell us, the power of presence and the strength of community can be transformative.

Baya Clare, CSJ: One way I like to think of this ministry is to think about the first sisters and lace making. We’re not teaching someone how to make lace; we’re teaching them how to make a better life. But it’s kind of the same thing. How can they support themselves in some other way besides whatever they were doing that got them into prison? Sometimes that’s recog­ nizing when a relationship is unhealthy; we give them the signs of an unhealthy relationship and what a healthy relationship looks like. They don’t know that stuff. Many women got in trouble because they don’t know how to be alone, and they take up with the first slime ball that comes along. “It would be better for you to be alone than to be with some person who’s pushing you around, being mean to your kids, keep­ ing you isolated or not letting you have access to your money, we tell them.” They need instruction to do that, where to go, what to look for, and what to run away from. It’s how you make lace.

Read the full article >