Our August Share the Plate recipient is The UU Prison Ministry of Illinois. In their words, UUPMI is dedicated to addressing the gross injustices in our criminal justice system – mass incarceration, dehumanizing treatment, lack of restorative justice, and barriers to housing and employment when released. We focus on two main functions: one, working with those who are victims of the system while they are in prison and after they are released, and two, leading the advocacy effort to change the system itself.
Prisons are a kind of hell. The English reformers of the 18th century Enlightenment included reform of prisons and asylums (another form of hell), in addition to the abolition of slavery (ditto), and the abolition of flogging in the Royal Navy. (Will those damn liberals never be satisfied?!) The English reformers were led primarily by members of the Society of Friends, and other social liberals such as the Unitarians.
The liberal democracies have made much progress with reducing the hellishness, but there are forces at work that undo the progress. The private prison industry is one of the worst. Imagine the temptation to abuse and shortchange the incarcerated, when there’s profit to do so.
Another abuse is the cash bail system. Those 18th- and 19th century reformers worked to eliminate debtor’s prisons. Cash bail puts people in jail because they don’t have enough money for bail. 21st century reformers are working to eliminate cash bail.
We have three Sundays remaining in August to contribute to this important work. We were unable to schedule a speaker from UUPMI to be with us (virtually) in August, but that will happen in September. It would be nice if we can hand over to the Prison Ministry a respectable collection, via Share the Plate and individual donations, in care of UUCE. Next year, we will try to have a UUPMI speaker be with us in person, on the first Sunday of whatever month we choose to share the plate with them.