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.
The Unitarian Universalist Association Calls for Solidarity with the Nationwide Prison Strike
This Resolution was a result.
2018 Action of Immediate Witness
BECAUSE Unitarian Universalists recognize the humanity, worth, and dignity of all people within and outside of our membership;
BECAUSE UUs are called to uphold that everyone is worthy of love and justice;
WHEREAS, prisons for profit encourages longer terms of imprisonment and maximizes profit by minimizing services and rehabilitation;
WHEREAS, the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC), under the influence of private prison companies that supply goods and services to prisons for profit, is a system of oppression that perpetuates and further criminalizes poverty;
WHEREAS, the PIC is an entrenched system of white supremacy where guilt and innocence are influenced by skin color and economic privilege, regardless of behavior;
WHEREAS, the federal prison system, thirty-five state prisons, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) charge for necessary medical care using private, for-profit medical companies;
WHEREAS, the Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF) membership includes 870 incarcerated people, many of whom have medical expenses but no resources to pay for care. Medical treatment must be paid before necessities such as soap, shampoo, stamps, and over-the-counter medicines can be acquired;
WHEREAS, incarcerated CLF members include 200 people living in Texas and Georgia prisons who receive no wages, but are still charged for medical care, leaving some unable to access adequate treatment. This perpetuates illness, debility, insurmountable debt, and chronic poverty. People in prisons are dying every day due to prohibitive medical cost;
WHEREAS the US Supreme Court ruled in Estelle v. Gamble (1976) that ignoring a prisoner’s serious medical needs amounts to cruel and unusual punishment; and
WHEREAS The Federal Bureau of Prisons is violating Rule 24 of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules) that states, “The provision of health care for prisoners is a State responsibility. Prisoners . . . should have access to necessary health-care services free of charge . . .”
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the 2018 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association denounces the predatory practice of charging medical fees to people in prison and commits to the following actions:
- Contact Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner urging him to sign HB 5104, which is currently on his desk. This bill would end medical fees for people incarcerated in Illinois.
- Contact Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and state legislators to demand an end to fee-for-service medical care in their states.
- Publicly oppose the practices of Corizon Health, which profits from privatized health care in Kansas, Missouri, and in twenty other states, as well as Wexford Health, MHM Services Inc. and other companies that supply health care for local, state, and federal prisons and ICE detention facilities.
- Insist the United Nations World Health Organization press the US to uphold Rule 24 of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
- Ensure that in your state the medical treatment of prisoners conforms with Estelle vs. Gamble.
THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT THE 2018 GENERAL ASSEMBLY ENCOURAGES UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS TO:
- Get more deeply involved in direct service prison ministry through such actions as beginning or joining local prison ministry efforts within your congregation or community organization; networking with others engaged in prison ministry; leading worship or small group ministry within prisons; becoming a pen pal; and welcoming post-incarcerated persons into your congregation.
- Continue to educate ourselves on the adverse impacts of prison privatization and the many injustices in the PIC such as a) grossly disproportionate impact on marginalized groups, b) solitary confinement practices, c) prison-based gerrymandering, d) voter disenfranchisement and e) employment discrimination.