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National: Presbyterian Church group passes anit-private prison resolution.

ACSWP hails private-prison resolution
January 26, 2004
Booklet includes GA policy, background and study materials
by John Filiatreau

LOUISVILLE - The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) took a break from its discussion of the "Transforming Families" paper on Jan. 23 for a celebration of the publication of a General Assembly "Resolution Calling for the Abolition of For-Profit Private Prisons."

The resolution opposing the management of public prisons by profit-making companies was authored by ACSWP and approved by last year's 215th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Denver.

On hand for its unveiling were the Rev. Vernon Broyles, associate director for social justice in the National Ministries Division, and Si Kahn, executive director of Grassroots Leadership, a 22-year-old civil-rights organization that works for "long-term positive change" in the South and in American culture as a whole.

Kahn, holding up a copy of the booklet, said: "This is a resolution of extraordinary importance. It is the model that we have been looking for in the faith community for a very long time. It recognizes that at heart this is a moral issue. It calls us to our ethical selves, and says that there are some things that cannot be for sale."

Kahn distributed copies of another new publication, a study titled "Corrections Corporation of America: The First 20 Years." CCA, one of the oldest and largest for-profit prison companies, manages about 3 percent of U.S. jails and prisons and reported $962 million in revenue in 2002.

CCA, which claims to be the sixth-largest prison system in the United States, has been criticized for poor business management and for abuse, violence and escapes at the 59 facilities it runs in 20 states and the District of Columbia.

The study of CCA was a joint project of Grassroots Leadership, the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First in Washington, DC, and Prison Privatization Report International, of London, England.

The CCA study concluded, as did the PC(USA) resolution, that "the existence of an industry based on incarceration for profit creates a commercial incentive in favor of government policies that keep more people behind bars for longer periods of time."

The PC(USA) publication unveiled last week comes with a "study and action guide" for individual Presbyterians and church groups.

The resolution is prefaced by a letter from the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the PC(USA), who points out that the appropriate goal of the criminal-justice system is "restorative justice" and commends the document to PC(USA) governing bodies "for prayerful study, dialogue and action."

The resolution says, in part: "Since the goal of for-profit private prisons is earning a profit for their shareholders, there is a basic and fundamental conflict with the concept of rehabilitation as the ultimate goal of the prison system. We believe that this is a glaring and significant flaw in our justice system and that for-profit prisons should be abolished."

The document is available online at

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