After debate about wording, Synod declares ‘prolonged solitary confinement’ as torture
“Do we think there are people who cannot be redeemed?”
UCC Board member Courtney Dobbins asked this question during a discussion on a resolution condemning solitary confinement as a form of torture during the final day of the United Church of Christ’s General Synod.
Dobbins, a member of Sixth Avenue UCC in Denver, and others brought up important points before delegates voted July 4 to approve the resolution.
Another question was “What would it do to you if you lived in a bathroom for years?” One delegate stated that the word “prolonged” before “solitary confinement” in the resolution text “needs to be gone.”
“Prolonged,” included in the title of the resolution itself, became the flash point in a spirited and sometimes difficult debate. That was true both in committee discussions July 2 and when the resolution came to the floor of General Synod.
Where to start?
The argument for deleting “prolonged” was that any form of solitary confinement is torture, and supporters of the deletion wanted to condemn all solitary confinement. Others, meanwhile, wanted to leave the word “prolonged” so that it was in agreement with statements from the United Nations, arguing that this would be a vital step in eliminating the practice.
“I’m torn,” said the Rev. Ruth Dixson Harvey of the United Church of Christ of Toms River, N.J. “Yes, it needs to be addressed, but is this where we start?”
In the end, this was where the UCC’s national body decided to start. Even after an appeal to overturn closing debate by Grant Carodine — a delegate from Spirit of the Cross UCC in Huntsville, Ala. — the resolution of witness passed 599-18, with six delegates abstaining.
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