Unitarian Universalist Policy
Unitarian Universalist Policy
Religious & Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice

The Unitarian Universalist Association has passed several resolutions that recognize racial and economic disparities in sentencing within our legal system. The more salient are excerpted below.  To search the full catalogue of Social Justice Statements, click here.

Drug Policy Reform

Alternatives to the "War on Drugs"
2002 Statement of Conscience

For more than thirty years, American public policy has advanced an escalating "war on drugs" that seeks to eradicate illegal drugs from our society. It is increasingly clear that this effort has failed. In practice the drug war disproportionately targets people of color and people who are poverty-stricken. Coercive measures have not reduced drug use, but they have clogged our criminal justice system with non-violent offenders. It is time to explore alternative approaches and to end this costly war.

Instead of the current war on drugs, we offer the following policies for study, debate, and implementation:

  • Shift budget priorities from spending for pursuit, prosecution, and imprisonment of drug law offenders to spending for education, treatment, and research.
  • Research the sociological factors that contribute to habitual, addictive, and destructive drug use, such as poverty, poor mental health, sexual or other physical abuse, and lack of education or medical treatment.
  • Abolish mandatory minimum prison sentences for the use and distribution of currently illicit drugs. Legislation should specify only maximum prison End sentencing inequities driven by racial profiling.

Substance Abuse
1991 General Resolution

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Unitarian Universalist Association, its member congregations, and individual Unitarian Universalists be urged to call upon all people and governments to:

4. address the underlying economic, social, and psychological conditions which give rise to substance abuse;
5. enable growers in source countries to replace drug crops with other economically rewarding crops;

1973 General Resolution

BE IT RESOLVED: That the 1973 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association urges the governments of the United States and Canada:

3. To place a major emphasis upon eliminating the social conditions like poverty, unemployment, and racial discrimination which may feed addiction;

Death Penalty

End the Death Penalty
2000 Action of Immediate Witness

Holding capital punishment as inconsistent with human life on account of its retributive, discriminatory, and non-deterrent character, General Assemblies of the Unitarian Universalist Association have opposed capital punishment restoration or continuance in any form (1961, 1966, 1974, and 1979).

How much longer will we, as a nation aspiring to democracy and fair play, condone capital punishment? How much longer will we, as a nation aspiring to liberty and justice for all, condone the ultimate loss of liberty for so many, whose numbers include a disproportionate percentage of persons of color?

Capital Punishment
1979 General Resolution

WHEREAS, the aforementioned resolutions have urged complete abolition of capital punishment as inconsistent with respect for human life; for its retributive, discriminatory, and non-deterrent character; and opposed its restoration or continuance in any form;

Capital Punishment
1961 General Resolution

WHEREAS, capital punishment has not always been used impartially among all economic and racial groups in America;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: That the Unitarian Universalist Association urges its churches and fellowships in the United States and Canada to exert all reasonable efforts toward the elimination of capital punishment;

Prison Reform

Criminal Justice and Prison Reform
2005 Statement of Conscience

As Americans, we take pride in our constitutional promise of liberty, equality, and justice for all, including those who have violated the law. Yet the incarceration rate in the United States is five- to tenfold that of other nations, even those without such a constitutional promise. Our corrections system is increasingly rife with inequitable sentencing, longer terms of detention, racial and ethnic profiling, and deplorable jail and prison conditions and treatment . The magnitude of injustice and inequity in this system stands in stark contrast to the values that our nation - and our faith - proclaim. We are compelled to witness this dissonance between what America proclaims for criminal justice and what America practices. We offer an alternative moral vision of a justice system that operates in harmonious accord with our values as a community of faith. This vision includes the presumption of innocence, fair judicial proceedings, the merciful restoration of those who have broken the law, the renunciation of torture and other abusive practices, and a fundamental commitment to the dignity and humane treatment of everyone in our society, including prisoners.

The Current Crisis
There are also stark disparities in the racial composition of our nation's prisons, as African Americans account for fully half of the prison population and comprise only thirteen percent of the total population. Failures in the criminal justice system have created a disenfranchised, stigmatized class who are predominantly from lower-income backgrounds, poorly educated, or from racial and ethnic minorities.

A Call to Unitarian Universalists
Advocacy Goals
Legislation that strengthens gun control, ends the so-called "War on Drugs," disallows mandatory minimum sentencing, provides for fair, equitable, anti-racist sentencing, and abolishes the death penalty.

Criminal Justice
1974 General Resolution

WHEREAS, the current prosecution, court and penal practices frequently translate political, social, and economic problems into personal and psychiatric problems, thus justifying increased control and repression;

Penal Reform
1971 General Resolution

NOTING: That the majority of persons arrested are males between 10-30 years suffering such social injustices as poverty, racism, poor education;

FURTHER NOTING: That public pressure for punishment has resulted in barbaric prison and jail systems productive of more crime;

For more information contact socialjustice@uua.org.

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