Skip to content Skip to navigation

1978 Board minutes set direction for AFSC’s work to end mass incarceration

In 1978, AFSC’s Board of Directors adopted three minutes committing to support a moratorium on prison construction, the eventual abolition of the prison system, and an amendment to the constitution that would prohibit all forms of involuntary servitude.

These minutes were originally included in a position paper titled Perspectives on A.F.S.C. Criminal Justice Programs. You can download the complete pamphlet here. 

American Friends Service Committee – Minutes on Criminal Justice

Adopted by the National Board of Directors, January 27-28, 1978

AFSC’s approach to prison construction moratorium

The American Friends Service Committee, believing prisons to be dehumanizing and destructive institutions, commits itself to support a moratorium on the construction of jails and prisons in order to prevent the expansion of the capacity of our country to hold people behind bars. It also commits itself to working for humane and socially constructive alternatives to prisons.

Abolition of imprisonment

The American Friends Service Committee rejects imprisonment as punishment for those whose behavior may be considered criminal. Constructive and creative means of addressing criminal behavior should be employed. This stand is based on our belief in the dignity of all human beings. It does not address issues regarding other forms of restrain as a response to destructive behavior. We are aware that the abolition of prisons cannot be immediately realized but commit ourselves to working toward this goal.

Revision of the Thirteenth Amendment

The American Friends Service Committee totally rejects the concept of slavery and involuntary servitude. Therefore, we support amendment of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which now reads:     

Neither slavery no involuntary servitude, EXCEPT AS PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME WHEREOF THE PARTY SHALL HAVE BEEN DULY CONVICTED, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

The exception clause should be deleted so that the Thirteenth Amendment would prohibit all slavery and involuntary servitude within the U.S. and its jurisdictions.