Friday, June 15, 2012

23 Hour Fast to End 23 Hour Solitary Confinement: June 18th-19th

Torture is a reality here on U.S. soil as well as abroad. The U.S. is a world leader in holding prisoners in prolonged solitary confinement. This practice is not only cruel and inhumane, under certain circumstances it can amount to torture.

“…solitary confinement is a cruel practice which causes permanent psychological damage to those who have been treated in that manner [which]…even in the absence of brutality can cause emotional damage, hallucinations, delusions, de-personalization and decline[d] mental functioning…Solitary confinement is banned under…the Geneva Conventions as it amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” -Amnesty International

In the U.S., there are 44 state-run super-max prisons and one federal super-max prison, each of which holds inmates exclusively in solitary confinement. At least 80,000 people in the U.S. criminal justice system are held in solitary confinement on any given day.

The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights will hold the first-ever Congressional hearing on solitary confinement this Tuesday, June 19th.

We are partnering with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) in calling for a nationwide 23 hour fast beginning the day before the hearing. This fast symbolizes the 23 hours per day prisoners spend in solitary confinement cells. Sign up here to join people of faith fasting across the nation from 1 p.m., Monday, June 18th until Noon, Tuesday, June 19th including our very own Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II. We also invite you to participate in a picture campaign on Facebook and Twitter. Take a picture of yourself holding a sign declaring why this issue is important to you, why you decided to act, or a statistic about solitary confinement. Here are some examples: “I stand in solidarity with those suffering in solitary”, “23 Hour Fast to End 23 Hour Solitary”, “I fast because____.” Then post your picture to the NRCAT event page on Facebook and use it as your profile picture June 18th and 19th. If you use Instagram, please post your photo and send it out through both Facebook and Twitter. 

For those who are in the D.C. area, please consider joining us at the hearing on Tuesday, June 19th at 10:00 a.m. in Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 226. This is a unique and meaningful opportunity. A well-attended hearing would show strong support for ending prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, so please come on the 19th, even if only for a short period of time. Please tell us if you are able to join us at the hearing by using this form.

As we have seen in recent prisoner hunger strikes in Virginia and California, refusing food is one of the few means prisoners across the country have to protest their conditions in solitary confinement. Praying and fasting will provide a powerful testimony that people of faith care deeply about limiting the use of solitary confinement.

To learn more about solitary confinement, go to NRCAT's page on Torture in U.S. Prisons and watch "Solitary Confinement: Torture in Your Backyard," a 20-minute film produced by NRCAT which features survivor testimonies and speakers from multiple faith perspectives.  

Thank you in advance for your participation in this incredible opportunity to shine a light in some of our nation’s darkest places. As we address the issue of torture domestically and internationally, let this fast be one way in which we, as a nation, pay attention to the log in our own eye and not only the speck in our neighbor's eye (Matthew 7:3-5).

·   Sign-Up Form:
·   Sample Tweet: Plz join me 4 the “23 Hour Fast to End 23 Hour Solitary” starting June 18 1pm. #23HourFast via @NRCATtweets
·   Facebook page to share:
·   Prayer for use during the fast:

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s concern for prisoners has been established for almost a century. In 1910, the General Assembly declared that the church ought to stand: 
For the development of a Christian spirit in the attitude of society toward offenders against the law. The Church holds that a Christian society must seek the reformation of offenders, and that it must endeavor to prevent the commission of crimes by furnishing a wholesome environment and by such education as will develop moral sense and industrial efficiency in the young (Minutes , PCUSA, 1910, Part I, p. 232).
…The ultimate goal of the criminal justice system should be “restorative justice”: “addressing the hurts and the needs of the victim, the offender, and the community in such a way that all—victim, offender, and community—might be healed” ( Resolution on Restorative Justice, Minutes , 2002, Part I, p. 576 ).
…Encourage all Presbyterians…to work to protect the health, welfare, and well-being of the prisoners that are held in these facilities.

(Resolution Calling for the Abolition of For-Profit Private Prisons, 2003)