Resolution on Massachusetts Prison Control Units approved by 205th Annual Meeting (2004)


Approved by the 205th Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Conference, United Church of Christ, June 12, 2004

WHEREAS, release of prisoners is a sign of God’s Spirit (Isaiah 61:1) and concern for prisoners is a sign of righteousness (Matthew 25:31-46); and

WHEREAS, prisons in Massachusetts contain “prisons within prisons” know as control units, where prisoners are held in sensory deprivation cells 23 to 24 hours a day; and

WHEREAS, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UN Convention on Torture) has stated that the “prolonged solitary confinement” of control units in the United States constitutes torture; and

WHEREAS, Dr. Stuart Grassian of Harvard Medical School has diagnosed an identifiable mental syndrome resulting from isolation, and the courts have recognized that in its worst stages this can lead to hallucinations and a confused psychotic state often involving random violence, mutilation and
suicidal behavior; and

WHEREAS, while people of color comprise 18.1% of the population of Massachusetts, they account for 51% of the prison population and 70% of those in disciplinary segregation1; and

WHEREAS, the release of inmates directly from control units into the free world with no adjustment time is dangerous for both the inmate and the general population; and
WHEREAS, Superior and Supreme Judicial Courts order for the reduction in use of the control units have not been implemented by the Department of Corrections; and

WHEREAS, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Friends Service Committee, Amnesty International, Community Change, the League of Women Voters and other Massachusetts organizations and elected officials have called for the closing of control units;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the 205th Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ opposes the continued use of the Departmental Disciplinary Units or any control unit using sensory deprivation techniques, and instead supports the use of humane alternatives such as behavioral contracts for all persons in segregation units; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the churches of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ be urged to become involved with the Campaign to Build Safer Communities, which is dedicated to prison reform and prisoner reintegration2; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the 205 Annual Meeting requests that the Minister and President distribute the text of this resolution to members of the Massachusetts state legislature and to the Governor of Massachusetts.

1 U.S. Census Bureau and Mass. Department of Correction
2 Telephone: 617-661-6130; American Friends Service Committee, Criminal Justice Program


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