The Justice Institute

The Justice Conference is expanding deeper and wider to holistically speak to the issue of mass incarceration and criminal justice at our Chicago Justice Institute. We believe that our society has shaped our views of criminal justice and incarceration more than the Scriptures clear commands to treat every incarcerated person with dignity (Hebrews 13:3, Matthew 25). Join us as we discuss a theologically faithful, practically empowering, and truly dignifying approach to the issue of criminal justice. Save the date and join us for this important event as we chase justice together!

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Criminal Justice System
Justice Institute CHICAGO || SEPT 21-22 2018

Justice Institute CHICAGO || Speakers

The speakers for this year’s Justice Institute CHICAGO will be speaking on the Criminal Justice System.

Dominique Dubois Gilliard

Director of Racial Righteousness and Reconciliation

Dominique DuBois Gilliard is the director of Racial Righteousness and Reconciliation for the Love Mercy Do Justice (LMDJ) initiative of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). He is the author of Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice that Restores. He also serves on the board of directors for the Christian Community Development Association and Evangelicals for Justice. In 2015, he was selected as one of the ECC’s “40 Under 40” leaders to watch, and Huffington Post named him one of the “Black Christian Leaders Changing the World.”
An ordained minister, Gilliard has served in pastoral ministry in Atlanta, Chicago, and Oakland. He earned a bachelor’s degree in African American Studies and History from Georgia State University and a master’s degree in History from East Tennessee State University, with an emphasis on race, gender, and class in the United States. Dominique earned a Master of Divinity degree from North Park Seminary, where he currently serves as an adjunct professor.

Michelle Higgins

Director of Worship and Outreach

A native of St. Louis, Michelle Higgins is actively engaged in the #BlackLivesMatter movement through participation in civil disobedience, leadership development, logistics, and administrative support in both sacred and secular spaces.

Michelle holds an MDiv at Covenant Theological Seminary. She is a proud supporter of local activism groups MCU (Metropolitan Congregations United), MORE (Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment) and OBS (the Organization for Black Struggle), through which she has learned a great deal about collaboration and solidarity. She is also the director of Faith for Justice, a Christian advocacy group. She serves as an organizer for the Leadership Development Resource Weekend (LDR Weekend), an annual gathering founded to address the core concerns of dignity, identity, and significance for people of color.

Dr. Soong Chan Rah

Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago

Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah is Milton B. Engebretson Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, IL and the author of The Next Evangelicalism (IVP Books, 2009); Many Colors (Moody, 2010); Prophetic Lament (IVP Books, 2015); co-author of Forgive Us (Zondervan, 2014); and Return to Justice (Brazos, 2016).

Rah is formerly the founding Senior Pastor of Cambridge Community Fellowship Church (CCFC), a multi-ethnic church living out the values of racial reconciliation and social justice in the urban context. He currently serves on the board of World Vision and Evangelicals 4 Justice. He has previously served on the board of Sojourners and the Christian Community Development Association.
He has extensive experience in cross-cultural preaching as well as on numerous college campuses. Soong-Chan has been a main stage speaker at the Urbana Student Missions Conference, the Congress on Urban Ministry, the Urban Youth Workers Institute Conference, the CCDA National Conference, the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary National Preaching Conference, the Fuller Missiology Conference, the Justice Conference, and Verge, Catalyst, and Calvin Worship Conferences.
Soong-Chan received his B.A. from Columbia University; his M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; his Th.M. from Harvard University; his D.Min. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and his Th.D. from Duke University.
Soong-Chan and his wife Sue and their two children, Annah and Elijah live in Chicago.

Jon Kelly

Justice Advocacy at Prison Fellowship

Pastor Jon was born in Chicago and raised in Philadelphia Pa. Growing up, he spent most of his teens in and out of juvenile detention centers and tried not to get killed in the streets. At the age of 19 he found himself in prison for his role in a shooting that left a young man dead. It was in his prison cell that he received a copy of God's Word and began reading. After reading from Matthew to Hebrews, Jon's eyes were opened. He was immediately gripped by his sin and his need for salvation in Christ. He gave his life to Christ in his prison cell.

Expecting to spend the rest of his life in prison, Jon was shown mercy and received a 6-20 year sentence. After serving 6 years, Jon was released and began attending Christian Stronghold Baptist Church in West Philadelphia. It was there that he met his wife and best friend, Danielle, while serving in youth ministry. In 2011 Jon moved to Chicago to attend Moody Bible Institute where he studied Systematic Theology. He served as a Family Pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel in downtown Chicago prior to becoming the Lead Pastor of Chicago West Bible Church. Currently, Pastor Jon is earning his Masters Degree in Biblical Studies at Wheaton Grad School. He also serves with Prison Fellowship in the role of Justice Advocacy and speaks nationally for their Speakers Bureau. He loves spending time with his wife Danielle and his two sons, Benjamin and Judah.

Amy Williams

Youth ministry veteran and certified Gang Intervention Specialist

AMY “Hope Dealer” WILLIAMS, a 23-year youth ministry veteran and cerfied Gang Intervenon Specialist, follows her passion to minister to teens involved in gangs, youth on probaon/parole and those lost in the criminal jusce system. She is an advisory board member of the Naonal Instute for Juvenile Jusce Ministries (IJJM) and a steering commi;ee member for the CCDA Mass Incarceraon Task Force. She is currently organizing and leading the North Park Seminary Juvenile Jusce Co-hort and is on the North Park University Center for Youth Ministries Studies (CYMS) Advisory Board. Amy is a naonal speaker and a trainer for Urban Youth Workers Instute, CCDA (Chrisan Community Development Associaon), DeVos Urban Leadership Iniave, and a former Youth Speciales Naonal Team trainer.

Susan Shah

Director of Programs and Strategy at the Vera Institute of Justice

Susan Shah, JD, MPH has dedicated her career to improving the lives of those who are vulnerable and marginalized by laws, policies, and inadequate services. As director of programs and strategy at Vera, she oversees programmatic initiatives that are driving change in the juvenile, criminal, and immigration systems. She also incubates and fundraises for new initiatives that advance Vera's strategic direction and harness new opportunities to tackle the most pressing injustices of our time. A member of Vera's leadership team, Susan acts as a liaison to Vera’s executive director to problem solve and review project concepts and ideas for investment. Prior to assuming this role, she served as chief of staff and led programmatic and institute-wide strategic planning. From 2011-2015, Susan was a program director in Vera’s Center on Immigration and Justice, where she guided police, justice officials, and lawyers in improving immigrants’ access to justice and safety and coached law enforcement on how to successfully overcome language barriers. Previously, she directed Vera’s Unaccompanied Children Program, which provides legal assistance to unaccompanied immigrant children who are facing deportation. Prior to joining Vera in 2006, Susan directed a health prevention education, research, and training program for New York City’s immigrant communities at the Center for Immigrant Health and was an associate in the immigration practice group of Bryan Cave LLP. In 2015, she was selected for the inaugural Immigrant Women Leaders Fellowship of the New York City Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs. Susan is a board member of Groundswell, which engages youth in public art-making to advance social change and is an advisory council member of the Mindful Justice Initiative. Susan earned her JD from Northeastern University School of Law, an MPH from Tufts University, and a BA in journalism from Drake University.

Heather Garretson

Criminal Justice Reform

Heather Garretson is dedicated to criminal justice reform. Heather’s professional and faith background give her a unique perspective on the criminal justice system and its impact on our communities. As a federal prosecutor with the United States Attorney’s office, Heather prosecuted federal narcotics cases and argued before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Following her work with the U.S. Attorney’s office, Heather practiced white-collar criminal defense before becoming a law professor. Heather now leads the ACLU of Michigan’s Smart Justice Campaign, which is committed to cutting incarceration in half and to ending racial discrimination in the criminal justice system.
In her nationwide talks and various writings, Heather examines Christian grace, the criminal justice system, and how the two can work together to create justice for our communities.

Miea A. Walker

Criminal Justice Manager, Policy and Advocacy Division, Forward Justice

Miea A. Walker is a social justice advocate and a prison abolitionist whose passion is addressing the intersectionality of race, class, gender and reentry for incarcerated men and women. In 2015, Miea received her master’s degree in Social Work from North Carolina State University. Currently, Miea is the Criminal Justice Manager, of the Policy and Advocacy Division with Forward Justice. Forward Justice is a law, policy and strategy center dedicated to advancing racial, social and economic justice by partnering with human rights organizations at the forefront of social movements in the South. Additionally, Miea serves as the chair of CCDA’s mass incarceration task force. In 2016, Miea’s personal journey with the justice system was featured in Christianity Today. In September 2017, Miea was appointed to serve on the Governor’s State Reentry Council Collaborative to address the inequities of justice-involved people during their transition back to the community. In October 2017, Miea was invited to join the steering committee of the Formerly Incarcerated Convicted People and Families Movement. Her passion for women allowed her to join the National Council for Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. Most notable about Miea is her love and commitment to serve those who are marginalized and often overlooked. Her goal is to dismantle the stigma and shame by reframing the narrative.

Pastor Michael McBride

Ethics and Public Policy

Pastor Michael McBride is a native of San Francisco and has been active in ministry for over 20 years. Throughout the years, Pastor Mike’s commitment to holistic ministry can be seen through his leadership roles in both the church and community organizations. A graduate of Duke University’s Divinity School, with an emphasis in Ethics and Public Policy, Pastor McBride planted The Way Christian Center in West Berkeley, where he presently serves as the Lead Pastor In March 2012, he became the National Director for Urban Strategies/LIVE FREE Campaign with the PICO National Network, a campaign led by hundreds of faith congregations throughout the United States committed to addressing gun violence and mass incarceration of young people of color. In 2013, Pastor Mike was selected as the #9 Top Clergy Leader to Watch in the US by the Center for American Progress.

He has served on a number of local and national task forces with the White House and Department of Justice regarding gun violence prevention, boys and men of color and police-community relationships. He is a regular guest on MSNBC, CNN and Al-Jazeera programs providing commentary for issues related to faith and racial justice. He is married to Cherise McBride and they have two beautiful daughters, Sarai and Nylah.

Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom

Professor of Theology & Ethics at North Park Theological Seminary

Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom is Professor of Theology & Ethics at North Park Theological Seminary and ordained to word and sacrament in the Evangelical Covenant Church. She is author of Angels, Worms, and Bogeys: The Christian Ethic of Pietism and co-author of Incorporating Children in Worship: Mark of the Kingdom. Michelle is a passionate advocate for people and groups who are marginalized in society and in the church. Her interests include virtue ethics, children, women’s participation, and education for persons who are incarcerated. Michelle initiated North Park’s theological education program in prison and now directs the Masters in Christian Ministry degree with a Restorative Arts track at Stateville Correctional Center.

Dan Cooper

Co-Executive Director of the Institute of Social Exclusion

Daniel Cooper works across Chicago with organizations and coalitions on a range of issues that include violence prevention, justice system reform, community and economic development, youth development, housing, and health equity. He was the founding Executive Director of the Center for Equitable Cities at Adler University in Chicago. He received his Ph.D. in Community Research and Action from Vanderbilt University, his Master of Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and his B.A. in Psychology from North Park University.

Pastor Paco Amador

Pastor Paco Amador was born in Mexico City. At the age of 14 he came to North Carolina where he finally committed his life to the Lord Jesus during his high school years.

In 1991 while studying at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago he visited the Little Village neighborhood and immediately felt like he had arrived at the place of his calling. Little Village is the largest Mexican immigrant neighborhood in the Midwest. To a Mexican kid lost in this great city Little Village just felt like coming home.

Following a 2year missionary experience with OM in Spain he came back to Chicago where he was immersed into the transformative community principles of CCDA while working at the Lawndale Christian Health Center. He then taught as a public school teacher for nine years, and in the summer of 2005 he was called into full time pastoral ministry leading the New Life congregation in Little Village.

New Life Community Church is a multi-site church with 22 different locations and 38 Sunday services throughout the Chicago area. The Little Village campus is a young bilingual congregation with multiple services and two sites throughout the neighborhood in English and Spanish and a growing gang prevention ministry among many other efforts. “Our focus in Little Village is to be fully immersed in loving every one of our neighbors, serving each other’s needs and demonstrating through our lives the redemptive beauty of the King.”

Paco and his wife Sylvia have been married for twenty-three years, have seven children and a crazy black labrador. They love Chicago and enjoy living in La Villita.

Billy Neal Moore

William ``Billy`` Neal Moore spent over 16 years on Georgia's death row for the crimes of murder and armed robbery. He plead guilty to both and was sentenced to death without a trial. Billy came within 7 hours of his execution before God intervened and the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles commuted his sentence to life in prison. God continued to faithfully open doors, and Billy was paroled and released from prison in 1991. He is the author of the book, ``I Shall Not Die, But Live,`` and he shares his story with audiences all over the world. He speaks at Yale Law School annually, teaches at Gerry Spence Trial Lawyer College, and participates in death penalty conferences and seminars in the United States and internationally. Billy is an Evangelical Pastor from Rome, Georgia where he and his wife Donna Jacks-Moore reside.

Cliff Nellis

Clifford M. Nellis, J.D., M.Div. – Mr. Nellis is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School and licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and English and a Minor in Political Science from Illinois Wesleyan University and a Master in Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Mr. Nellis studied cross-sector partnerships between government and non-profit leaders in Chicago and New Delhi, India, through the Civic Leadership Academy of University of Chicago. Mr. Nellis clerked for the Honorable Edward Nottingham of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado before founding the Lawndale Christian Legal Center in Chicago, Illinois, which provides community-based holistic criminal defense legal services for youth and emerging adults. He serves on the Executive Coordination Team that established the first Restorative Justice Community Court for emerging adults in Chicago. He is a member of the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center Advisory Board, the Illinois Juvenile Justice.

Matt and Sarah DeMateo

Matt and Sarah DeMateo have been working with at risk youth in Chicago since 2000. They live and serve in the Little Village neighborhood on Chicago's southwest side. They have four children: Bella (12), Benny (10), Bobby (8), and Tug (5). Matt began serving as a pastor full-time with New Life Community Church ( in 2006. For years, Matt has overseen all of the community development efforts and helped start the Urban Life Skills Program ( The Urban Life Skills Program (ULS) is an intensive, community-based mentoring program for youth ages 10 to 24 that was recently recognized as the top mentoring program in the state of Illinois. In 2013, Matt became the Executive Director of New Life Centers of Chicagoland ( New Life Centers connects youth and young adults to Christ and Community through mentoring, education, and sports and services over 5000 youth and families with more than 750 volunteers. The team also does street outreach, responding to shootings, and working to stop any retaliation and bring hope and healing to our neighborhoods. Matt and Sarah are excited to continue to advocate for some of Chicago's most at-risk youth and equip and empower others to do the same

Sharon Irving


“I take a deep breath and step out on faith.” Those words have been a mantra for South Side of Chicago Native, Sharon Irving, songstress/songwriter/spoken word artist, worship leader and actress, since she was a little girl, performing in front of the congregation at the south side church in Chicago where her grandfather was pastor. Her first tenous steps as an artist were shaped by the influences of his powerful baritone singing and eloquent sermons, and the mind blowing artistry of her father, famed jazz musician and composer, Robert Irving III. With loving encouragement from her mother and grandmother, Sharon has cultivated and shaped her own creative persona. She is an inspiring ‘voice for the voiceless’, a passionate wordsmith spewing truth and inspiration, singing songs of life and love motivated by her personal experiences, and undergirded by her Christian beliefs. Sharon has been a part of the worship team at Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Illinois for several years, has contributed songs and words of hope before thousands at liturgical and corporate events, youth conferences, including the popular “CHIC”, (‘Covenant High in Christ’), in small clubs and intimate settings all over the country, at the Angola Prison in Angola, Louisiana, and even entertained millions while a participant on Season Ten of “America’s Got Talent”, where she received the coveted “Golden Buzzer” at her first televised audition, and was chosen by America to compete in the Semi-Finals. “We are all walking art”, Sharon has stated as she fuses her love of fashion and music into a whimsical symmetry of sound and visual esthetic. She also lends her talents to the popular Chicago-based band, “Pocket Radio”, which blends soul, hip hop, funk and fusion. Over the past two years, Sharon has poured her spirit into her debut album, ‘Bennett Ave’, which premiered September 29,2017.. “I like to blend different art forms when I’m writing songs and, with this album, I’ve drawn inspiration from every genre and I mean every genre. I have a passion for shaping words and everyday phrases to melody. ‘Bennett Ave’ is an expression of my thoughts on issues of justice, love and redemption in the darkest situations. It's about what it means to be human when we’re at our lowest and highest points. It’s been challenging, but my heart is to pursue new methodologies in worship music, and reach people through mainstream music. Life is messy and broken. So many people are hiding, living for others, dying on the inside, holding onto unhealthy narratives out of fear but Gods strength is made perfect in those messy places. I'm learning this, daily. There's an unlikely and beautiful story of redemption waiting to unfold in our lives. I want my art to be transparent, raw, uplifting and healing.”

Pinqy Ring


Born and bred in Chicago, Marisol Vélez (aka Pinqy Ring) first shook hands with the mic at age 15 when her love for learning Hip Hop songs turned into a curiosity to try it for herself.
During the span of her career, Pinqy has captivated audiences in Chicago - playing the Taste of Chicago in 2017 - as well as Washington, Austin, Houston, Minneapolis, St. Louis, New York, San Francisco, New Orleans and even Ghana, West Africa. She has been the subject of local, national and international media features and has reached hundreds of thousands of listeners as a guest on several radio interviews.

Urban Doxology


Urban Doxology is a ministry of Arrabon that writes the soundtrack of reconciliation in the racially diverse and gentrifying neighborhood of Church Hill, Richmond, VA. The band evolved out of the Urban Songwriting Internship Program that is a partnership with Arrabon and East End Fellowship. Most of band members are an active part of East End Fellowship, a community that endeavors to be a faithful presence seeking God’s joy and justice for their neighborhood out of love for Christ.


8:30 AM
10:00 AM-12:00 PM
General Session 1
What is The Million Dollar Block Project? / Rethinking Incarceration
12:00 PM- 1:30 PM
Boxed Lunch
1:00 PM-2:30 PM
  • Breakouts 1A
  • Breakouts 1B
  • Breakouts 1C
  • Breakouts 1D
2:45 PM-3:45 PM
  • Breakouts 2A
  • Breakouts 2B
  • Breakouts 2C
  • Breakouts 2D
4:00 PM-5:00 PM
  • Breakouts 3A
  • Breakouts 3B
  • Breakouts 3C
  • Breakouts 3D

Breakout Session Topics

  • History of Mass Incarceration Part I & Part II
  • Practical Application Part I & Part II
  • Women in Mass Incarceration Part I & Part II
  • Community Policing Part I
  • Role of Faith Communities For Returning Citizens
  • Sentencing & Parole: doing justice, loving mercy
  • Re-entry Challenges As A Returning Citizen
  • Trauma & Dehumanization of Mass Incarceration
6:00 PM-7:30 PM
Dinner on Your Own
7:30 PM-9:30 PM
An Evening of Arts & Justice
Featuring Sharon Irving, PINQY Ring and Urban Doxology
10:00 AM-11:30 AM
General Session 2
Urban Gun Violence Panel
11:30 AM-1:00 PM
Boxed Lunch
1:00 PM-2:00 PM
  • Breakouts 4A
  • Breakouts 4B
  • Breakouts 4C
  • Breakouts 4D
2:15 PM-3:15 PM
  • Breakouts 5A
  • Breakouts 5B
  • Breakouts 5C
  • Breakouts 5D

Breakout Session Topics

  • Bail
  • Role of Community to Prevent Gun Violence Part I & II
  • Role of Community Service
  • Community Policing Part II
  • Education to Reduce Recidivism
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Closing Session
Prison Pipelines

An Evening of Arts & Justice

Join us for a night celebrating the Arts and Justice including spoken word and music by Sharon Irving, PINQY Ring, and Urban Doxology. All are welcome to attend. Tickets are $15.00. The faculty, staff and student rate is $8.50 (Please have your Student/Faculty ID) with you when you check-in at registration). Want to attend for free? Register to attend The JUSTICE Institute in Chicago.

Travel Information


North Park University, 3225 W Foster Ave, Chicago, IL 60625

Time & Date:

Friday, Sep 21, 2018 10:00 AM – 9:30 PM EDT (doors open at 8:30 AM)
Saturday, Sep 22, 2018 10:00 AM – 4:30 PM EDT (doors open at 8:30 AM)

Hotel & Travel:

Chicago Hotel Versey – 644 W Diversey Pkwy Chicago, IL 60614

Click Here for Room Block

Boutique Chicago Hotel Versey is located just .4 miles from the brown line, which can get you to North Park University in 30-40 minutes. To be included in the “Justice Institute Room Block” call and reference this name or click this link to book your room. Rooms are limited and are on a first come, first served basis for 9/20/18 – 9/23/18. Rooms must be booked prior to 8/22/18.

Aloft Chicago O’Hare – 9700 Balmoral Avenue Rosemont, IL 60018

Click Here for Room Block

Aloft is located minutes away from O’Hare is located 9.4 miles (25 minute drive) North Park University. Call hotel for parking rates. To be included in the “Justice Institute Room Block” call and reference this name or click this link to book your room. Rooms are limited and are on a first come, first served basis for 9/20/18 – 9/22/18. Rooms must be booked prior to 9/6/18.

Other Chicago Hotel Options: There are very few hotels close to North Park University. We negotiated rates at a couple of hotels in two different areas, but you may find other hotels that meet your needs. You may be able to book an individual reservation at a hotel that is closer or cheaper on your own. Utilize your favorite hotel search engine to find other hotel options close to North Park University.