The U.S. Department of Justice has announced that it is ending its use of private prisons. Thirteen privately run facilities in the Bureau of Prisons will be affected. Along with recurring incidents, recent studies commissioned by the Justice Department have shown that private prisons are less effective, less secure, and less capable of carrying out the stated aims of correctional facilities.
We join with the Department, criminal justice advocates, and people of good will in rejoicing at this step forward. The United Methodist Church has an historical faith commitment to fair and just prison policies, as seen in our Social Principles, our Book of Resolutions, and our statements on socially responsible investment ethics (Resolution 4071, 2012 Book of Resolutions; Paragraph 717, forthcoming 2016 Book of Discipline).
Our commitment to a system of restoration rather than retribution draws on biblical authority that emphasizes transformation, healing, and right relationship with God, self, and community. As the Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Hebrews, “Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured” (Hebrews 13:3).
We call upon the Department of Homeland Security and state and local governments to enact similar standards regarding the use of private prisons. May this move – away from the privatization of prisons – be one step in a journey toward a more compassionate and just criminal justice system.
The General Board of Church and Society is one of four international program boards of The United Methodist Church. The board is called to seek the implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements of the General Conference on Christian social concerns.