The former president says one thing missing from the New Baptist Covenant movement he is seeking to build is focus on “setting the captives free.”

By Bob Allen

Former President Jimmy Carter says the disproportionate number of African-Americans who are incarcerated is a remaining vestige of racism in the United States.

“When the black Baptist leaders speak out and say what do Baptists need to do, the main issue they have brought out is we need to do something about the abuse of people in prison who happen to be African-American or other minorities or mentally ill,” Carter said in an article published July 24 on the website

“They have convinced me at least that this is maybe the most vivid remaining demonstration or essence of racism,” said the 39th U.S. president and Nobel Prize winner best known for peacemaking and humanitarian work through the Carter Center in Atlanta and the homebuilding charity Habitat for Humanity.

In an interview for an upcoming Baptist Center for Ethics video about prison ministry and reform, Carter said of the several things from Luke 4:18-19 he and others in recent years have tried to present as a consensus moral agenda to unite Baptists in North America across lines of doctrine and race, the least progress has been made in proclaiming “release to the captives,” or those in prison.

Carter said “we’re going backward, not forward” in the area of prison reform.

“I think one of the things the New Baptist Covenant can do — and any other Christian, who thinks about the teachings of Christ — is to reduce the punishment and emphasize the rehabilitation and forgiveness and love that we need to extend to people in prison,” Carter said.