May 31, 2012.
The 46 churches of the United Church of Christ that comprise the Southwest Conference are calling for the abolition of private prisons. At their 2012 Annual Conference, more than 200 representatives of churches throughout Arizona, New Mexico and the El Paso area unanimously approved this call to action. They further resolved to examine their investments in the private prison industry.
Texas leads the nation in the number of private prisons beds, New Mexico houses nearly half of its prisoners in private facilities and Arizona is the epicenter for detention of undocumented migrants in federally-run private prisons.
The Southwest Conference of the United Church of Christ's mission speaks of being "called to embody God's unconditional,justice and love." Their most compelling rationale for this strong stand is that incarcerating human beings for profit is completely inconsistent with the teachings of their Christian faith. Private prisons are profit-making businesses and this directly contradicts the goal of rehabilitation.
It is to a private prison's advantage to maximize the number of people who are incarcerated and stay incarcerated. Private prisons do not provide for job training, reentry preparation, and other programs that reduce recidivism rates and enhance successful return to families and communities.
The terms of a recent offer to 48 state governors by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) to purchase state prisons emphasize the goal of this industry--keeping their prisons full and supporting tougher criminal statues and anti-immigration laws to justify new prisons. Among other terms presented to the governors, CCA specified that any purchased prison would require at least 90% occupancy over ten years.
As a result of their call to abolish private prisons, churches and individuals within the UCC Southwest Conference will be joining with other faith communities to advocate for more humane and effective,approaches to criminal "justice".
The United Church of Christ remains an historical voice in America for social justice, consistently seeking ways to put faith into action and advocate for justice at every level of society.
Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer
Southwest Conference Minister
May 31, 2012.