On July 6, 2012, the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to affirm the denomination’s 2003 statement opposing private prisons, by discouraging future investment in the private prison industry through examination of corporate practices and congregational outreach and education. The resolution, from Hudson River Presbytery, “encourage(s) the General Assembly Mission Council to prevent future investment and, as it deems appropriate, encourage individual Presbyterians and congregations to divest of holdings in the said companies.”
Grassroots Leadership organizer and Presbyterian Criminal Justice Network liaison Gail Tyree praised the decision, saying “This just shows that Presbyterians can be counted on to do the right thing. It is gratifying to see the Church’s 2003 statement strengthened to encourage individuals to divest from private prison corporations.”
The statement is a part of a growing chorus of faith voices opposed to prison privatization. In May, the United Church of Christ’s Southwest Conference called for the abolition of private prisons. In January, the United Methodist Church put into place a screen against private prison investment. In 2000, the 48 Southern Catholics Bishops called for the end of all for-profit private prisons.
Grassroots Leadership is a 30 year-old Southern and Southwestern-based social justice organization that works to end for-profit incarceration and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education.