International Justice and Action: UU Office at the United Nations

International Criminal Justice: From Punitive to Restorative (2015)

Each year the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO) hosts our Spring Seminar. Our 2015 theme was International Criminal Justice: From Punitive to Restorative.

Throughout the seminar participants met in collaboration groups to discuss and process the informational panels and activities. At the end of the conference, each collaboration group submitted a statement which contributed to our annual Spring Seminar Statement. Below is our collective statement from 2015.

Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office

2015 Intergenerational Spring Seminar Statement

International Criminal Justice: From Punitive to Restorative


Unitarian Universalism is a faith that champions compassion and justice in human relations, principles which many judicial systems do not uphold for all people, especially those in marginalized groups,

Unitarian Universalists affirm the inherent worth and dignity of all people and recognize that there are negative stereotypes surrounding incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people,

Everyone is entitled to due process under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, yet many people are convicted of crimes without sufficient evidence,

People should be defined by their humanity, and not by a single bad choice made in their worst moment,

Each human being’s inherent capacity for good and positive growth is not acknowledged in the current punishment paradigm,

Racial bias is rampant in criminal justice systems around the world, and prison systems stunt growth and change,

Solitary confinement is an inhumane punishment and form of torture that removes an individual from the interconnected web of life,

There is no evidence that the death penalty deters violent crime,

The rate of recidivism is higher for incarcerated people who do not receive education in prison than for those who do,

Human trafficking is illegal everywhere, but practiced in all countries, affecting people of all classes, nationalities, ethnicities, races, and genders,

Ignorance of human trafficking in our own communities helps perpetuate the system,

All sides of a story need to be considered with an open mind, rather than passing automatic judgment on others,

Unitarian Universalists believe in the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all,

We Therefore Resolve To:

Acknowledge the humanity of those incarcerated.

Educate our peers and congregations, raise awareness, and demand comprehensive reform of prison conditions.

Create and implement measures to promote rehabilitation not punishment.

Combat the rise of for-profit prisons that thrive on disproportionate sentencing.

Work to establish a system where inmates have the right to equal education and the ability to access it.

Advocate for elimination of solitary confinement as a means of punishment.

Dedicate ourselves to ending the death penalty.

Stand in solidarity with former convicts, and help create a supportive environment for their rehabilitation and new life.

Work to increase the self-esteem and self-worth of incarcerated people upon their integration back into society.

Focus on community building as an advocacy and crime prevention tool.

Educate local and global societies about the threat and signs of human trafficking, as a means of prevention.

Engage our Unitarian Universalist congregations with the United Nations in support for more just and humane criminal justice systems throughout the world.

Affirmed by the participants of the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office Intergenerational Spring Seminar, New York City, 11 April, 2015.

Watch Spring Seminar 2015

Take a look at the UU-UNO's 2015 Intergenerational Spring Seminar, International Criminal Justice: From Punitive to Restorative.

Video by Amber Dawn Bellemare

Watch Video

Final Spring Seminar Panel at the United Nations.

The 4th panel of our 2015 Spring Seminar, Retribution or Restoration took place at the United Nations Headquarters. This panel focused on solitary confinement and the death penalty, and featured an exclusive interview with Dr. Cornel West.