Break the Cycle of Poverty and Imprisonment: Ask UMC to divest from private prisons

"The United Methodist Church has a problem," says Bill Mefford, Civil and Human Rights chair of the General Board of Church and Society. "Investment in private prisons denies [the UMC's] stance on prison reform." 

The prison industry in the United States at present, Mefford explains, mass-incarcerates people in poverty and people of color; houses juveniles and adults together; uses "a one-size-fits-all approach to justice" by increasing mandatory minimums and removing judicial discretion; and follows "the general belief that justice is achieved by the same get-tough approach," locking up more and more people for longer and longer sentences. All of these strategies contradict the United Methodist call for restorative justice.

The United Methodist Church is currently invested in The GEO Group and Corrections Corp of America (CCA), both private prison corporations. Many United Methodists have begun calling for the church to divest from the prison industry, including Raul B. Alegria and Bishop Elias Galvan, respectively President and Executive Director of MARCHA, Metodistas Asociados Representando la Causa de los Hispanos Americanos.

In a letter to the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits, Alegria and Bishop Galvan implored: "We are disturbed that our United Methodist Church would invest pension funds [in] an industry that profits from the imprisonment of persons many of whom are persons of color. However what disturbed us most is the fact that this industry also runs and manages the detention centers where persons without documents are being held and deprived of their basic legal rights. Some of these persons are members of our local United Methodist Churches."

"The private prison industry has lobbied for and supported the adoption of regressive and unjust anti-immigrant legislation in several states of which Arizona and Alabama are obvious examples. These laws have caused much anxiety and suffering in Latino communities, promoted racial profiling and created a hostile environment for all Hispanics the vast majority who are US citizens."

 Mefford's article first appeared here:


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