Tag Archives: Criminal Justice

Champions of Change: Re-Entry and Employment

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the White House event, Champions of Change: Re-Entry and Employment. The event honored 16 Americans doing extraordinary work in their local communities to facilitate employment opportunities for individuals formerly involved in the criminal justice system. Attendees heard from inspiring speakers and two panels featuring the “champions.” For advocates and federal officials, it was an opportunity to take a look at best practices and local success stories in this critical area. Read more…

Can We Make “Juvenile Justice” More Just?

Crime is prevalent everywhere in our world. When a person commits a crime, they are punished and, depending on its severity, are eventually brought back into society. While many crimes are perpetrated by adults, teenagers and even children – juveniles – can also commit offenses. A person is considered a juvenile delinquent if they are under the age of eighteen and commit an act that otherwise would be considered a crime if they were an adult. Many juveniles are placed in adult prisons and forced to endure sentences that are inappropriate to their age. The criminal justice system needs to realize that simply locking up a juvenile and throwing away the key is not the answer. We must find ways to keep our young people out of adult facilities and do whatever we can to rehabilitate them and keep them away from a life of crime.

The Sentencing Project compiled a study in 2011 that showed nearly 8,000 minors were in adult jails or prisons that year. In my opinion, this is simply unacceptable. If we work to rehabilitate our juveniles and do whatever it takes to keep them out of prisons and jails, it can lead to better futures for them. Read more…

The Beginning of an End to Mass Incarceration

“I am a Jew because in every place where suffering weeps, the Jew weeps.
I am a Jew because whenever despair cries out, the Jew hopes.”

—Edmond Fleg

Though the United States represents only 5% of the world’s population, it holds 25% of the world’s prisoners. Over the past thirty years, the U.S. prison population has increased by 500%, bringing the number of prisoners in local, state, and federal prisons to nearly 2.3 million people. Read more…

Demand a Vote for Criminal Justice Reform

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Smarter Sentencing Act by a bipartisan vote of 13-5 in January. But since then, despite increased pressure from advocates, the bill has yet to be called for a vote of the full Senate. Read more…

Mental Health Awareness Month: Spotlighting the Criminal Justice System

This blog is part of an on-going series about the intersection of mental health and other crucial Jewish social justice issues during Mental Health Awareness Month. For more posts, click here.

America’s criminal justice system largely fails those who suffer from mental illness. In a February column decrying the criminalization of mental illness, the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof wrote: “Psychiatric disorders are the only kind of sickness that we as a society regularly respond to not with sympathy but with handcuffs and incarceration.” Read more…

Detaining to Quota: The Detention Bed Mandate

Since 2010, every Congressional appropriation bill for the Department of Homeland Security has included the following language: “That funding made available under this heading shall maintain a level of not less than 33,400 detention beds.” The number has varied slightly, but the implications have not; while this language seems innocuous, it means that Congress has mandated immigration authorities to meet a quota of detainees in custody each night. Read more…

Communal Responsibility to Enact Just Punishment

By Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld

Throughout the centuries, the rabbis who created Jewish tradition and law were exacting in making sure the punishment fit the crime. They interpreted “an eye for an eye” to involve a monetary exchange. When a crime called for the perpetrator to be lashed 40 times for his/her crime they reduced the number to 39 to insure the person would not be over punished. They set limits for fines, torts and dozens of other punishments as well.

Ever since 9/11 and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, police and sheriff departments around the country have had access to bigger and better weapons. Training modes has shifted toward a military model of end the threat as quickly as possible. In the movie Men In Black recruits are sent into a simulation. Will Smith’s character takes a moment to evaluate the situation and takes the correct action while the others just go in shooting. Today, the actions of the others would be seen as correct.  Read more…

Oklahoma Botches Execution: What’s Going On?

Last night, the state of Oklahoma effectively tortured one of its prisoners to death, after weeks of legal back-and-forth between the state’s courts about the legality of the execution. Clayton Lockett’s execution was halted after it was clear that the lethal injection procedure was botched, but he suffered significantly and ultimately died as a result of the botched procedure.

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