Friends General Conference

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Resist the Prison Industrial Complex: May Peace Calendar Queries

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Queries were contributed by Miriam Bunner

Quaker humanism inspired the first penitentiary - the 18th century's great advance over the gallows, the whip, the stocks and the pillory. The idea was to place criminals in solitary cells, with a Bible for companionship, where they might do penance for their crimes. Hence the word, penitentiary, for a new kind of institution with a new kind of goal: redemption, or, in modern parlance, rehabilitation.Fast forward to today where, in the United States, prisons have become part of “big business” where putting people, especially people of color, in prison and keeping them locked up is good for business. This month we’re invited to notice how prisons have become part of our nations’ economy, by reflecting on the following queries.

  • What problems with the current state of our criminal justice system have risen to the forefront of your consciousness recently and why? What concrete things might we do to shed light on the problems to bring about real change?
  • Early Friends were heavily involved in prison reform movements and had significant influence in establishing the present penitentiary system. As 21st-century Friends, what sense of obligation do we have to become involved in reform of the current system? What might be preventing us from being able or willing to engage in the process? In light of Jesus' admonition that we visit those in prison, what has our faith moved us to do as individuals to carry out this task?
  • If formerly incarcerated individuals visited or started attending our Meeting, what might be some obstacles that would prevent us from welcoming and embracing them with care and nurture for their spiritual well-being? How might we as a meeting (and as individuals) confront those obstacles?


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