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CPMM Minute on Mass Incarceration

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CPMM Minute on Mass Incarceration

Approved, May 14, 2017



At our December 2016 morning meeting for business, John Gallery invited us to consider addressing mass incarceration by challenging the clause of the 13th Amendment that permitted the continuation of slave conditions in prison as punishment for crime.  At the end of that session, the Peace and Social Concerns Committee was charged with helping the meeting move forward on this issue.  This minute will allow our clerk to speak out publicly on mass incarceration as the occasion warrants, and will support our internal efforts to respond faithfully.

As Quakers, we are proud of our abolitionist forebears.  To continue to claim that legacy with integrity we cannot be silent in the face of the 21st century face of slavery:  mass incarceration.  Silence is complicity. 

Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting goes on public record in opposition to mass incarceration, as one step in taking it as seriously as we would have taken slavery.  We are clear as a body that this is a violent, unjust, racist system, one that runs contrary to our most deeply held beliefs, and one that must be challenged with all the resources we can bring to bear. 

Having committed ourselves to such a public declaration, we commit to supporting each other to discern the variety of actions that we are called to – individually, in our Quaker meeting, and as a wider community.

Mass incarceration is a monster with many tentacles.  There are many places to engage:  all the injustices that lead up to prison, including the school-to-prison pipeline; the prison experience itself; the challenges of reentry.  There are many levels, ranging from responding to the immediate needs of individuals and their families, to challenging systems – from sentencing guidelines to the prison for profit industry, to challenging the clause in the 13th Amendment that permitted the continuation of slave conditions in prison as punishment for crime.

Each one of us needs encouragement to find our own voice and our own contribution to unraveling the fabric of this evil.  And we must raise a common voice, saying that we as a people will not be silent in the face of such evil.