Monday, July 16, 2012

Ending For-Profit Prisons

OPW Joins Networks and Local Congregations in Opposing Prison Privatization

The men of Elmwood United Presbyterian Church in East Orange, New Jersey, used the Father’s Day weekend to launch efforts for ending privatized prisons. Elder Bill Brown attended the revamping of the PC(USA) Criminal Justice Network at Stony Point Conference Center in New York, and presented the challenge to the men of the Elmwood congregation.
Advocates for Criminal Justice Reform came together to study Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Brown, with the assistance of his pastor, the Reverend Robert L. Burkins, planned a Father’s Day gathering to discuss the impact of Prison Privatization on men in the African American community.
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson announced the OPW's commitment to ending for-profit prisons.
The Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, PC(USA) Director for Public Witness, was invited to this event to explain the role of advocacy and to suggest action steps for opposing for-profit prisons. Nelson announced the OPW’s commitment to join the struggle with other PC(USA) groups, such as Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA) and Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, in an effort to end for-profit prisons in the United States.
The PC(USA) policy “Resolution Calling for the Abolition of For-Profit Prisons” was approved by the 215th General Assembly in 2003. In this document, the Assembly said:

The question of whether human beings should be incarcerated, of how they should be treated while in prison, of when they will be released, cannot be answered by whether or not these steps will create profit for a corporation.  In a humane society, in a democratic society, there are some things that can never be for sale, even and especially when they involve “one of the least of these followers of mine.”.
“In the Spirit of partnership with other denominational offices and congregations,” said Nelson, “we are hoping that our commitment to combat stockholder profiteering on the incarceration of men and women will be a step toward restorative justice and the biblical mandate to love our neighbor.”

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of the Washington Report to Presbyterians. To download the entire newsletter, click here.