The Unitarian Universalist Association expresses its strong support for the incarcerated people engaged in the nationwide prison strike.
On August 21, 2018, prisoners across the United States declared a nationwide strike in response to a riot in the Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina. During the riot in this maximum security prison, seven prisoners died and at least 20 more were injured. According to the South Carolina Director of Corrections Bryan Stirling and accounts from several prisoners, prison guards and EMTs didn’t intervene until hours after the riot began.
Striking prisoners are demanding safe and humane living conditions, access to rehabilitation, sentencing reform, and the end of a “modern-day system of slavery” where prisoners must often work for little or no money.
Those on strike plan to continue striking until September 9, 2018. Organizers say they hope it will bring public attention to the brutal conditions under which prisoners in the United States are suffering. To date, prisoners in seventeen states are participating in the strike. Detainees at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Tacoma, Washington, have joined them by participating in a hunger strike.
The UUA passed an Action of Immediate Witness to Dismantle Predatory Medical Care Practices in Prisons and End Prisons for Profit at its annual General Assembly in June. The AIW was considered because of the testimony and advocacy of the Unitarian Universalist online congregation, Church of the Larger Fellowship, which currently has more than 890 incarcerated members.
Unitarian Universalists affirm the inherent worth and dignity of all people. Our faith teaches us to work for justice, equity and compassion in all human relations. One of our key justice priorities is fighting the expanding and increasingly dehumanizing forces of criminalization because it is one of the most egregious affronts to human rights, human dignity and liberty in the United States.
The statistics of exploding incarceration rates, denial of basic human rights in U.S. prisons, the detention of children and families, and the corrosive effect of the private prison industry demand a moral outcry from faith communities.
As Unitarian Universalists we are called to witness to radical love and build justice. We are called into solidarity with prisoners as they organize to better their lives and conditions. We recognize the circle of love and justice always expands because of the leadership and vision of those who most directly experience the suffering caused by injustice, like those on strike inside our nation’s prisons right now.