Tag Archives: Criminal Justice
Text of HR 1447, Death in Custody Reporting Act

Take Action to Support Transparency in the Criminal Justice System!

The Death in Custody Reporting Act of 2013 (H.R. 1447) is crucial legislation that will provide much-needed transparency in the criminal justice system. The law would require and facilitate the collection of information regarding the deaths of prisoners in custody, alleviating the environment of suspicion, concern and mistrust that exists today in many racial and ethnic minority communities from coast to coast.

In December, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the Death in Custody Reporting Act.  The Senate must now introduce and pass a companion to H.R. 1447 before adjourning for the year so that the President can sign it into law.

Urge your Senators to introduce and pass this important legislation. Take action now!

Read more…

Ferguson, statement from Barbara Weinstein

Urgent Need for Justice and Peaceful Resolution of Unrest in Ferguson

Washington, D.C., August 20, 2014 - In response to the unrest in Ferguson, MO, Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

We, like so many across the U.S. and indeed the world, have watched the unrest in Ferguson, MO with heavy hearts and deep concern. Though the investigations into the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer are ongoing and assessments about both the public’s reaction and law enforcement’s response are essential, what is already clear is that in Ferguson, the relationships between law enforcement, public officials and community members have been terribly damaged by mistrust. At the same time, persistent and widening economic inequality has also contributed to deep communal frustration.

Sadly, these circumstances are not unique to Ferguson. The challenges of racial divides and mistrust that afflict communities across the U.S. are a tragic emblem of how much work remains to be done to overcome divisions rooted in our nation’s history and the persistence of racial and ethnic disparities. As the gap between the rich and the poor widens in America, these economic inequalities are having a detrimental effect on communities where opportunities are shrinking every day.

Efforts to remedy these challenges require both short- and long-term commitments. Law enforcement must swiftly, fully and justly investigate the circumstances of Michael Brown’s death even while respecting and protecting the rights of community members who wish to assemble peacefully and express themselves. Communal relationships must be strengthened and we are encouraged that so many Reform congregations, including those in and around St. Louis, are engaged in such interfaith and inter-coalitional efforts. We are proud of our synagogue members and rabbis who have participated in, and supported efforts to keep peaceful, the protests that have taken place in Ferguson. As a Movement, we stand with them and will continue to advocate for policies and practices that address the scourge of racial profiling while promoting opportunity for all. We also continue to work to address those policies that have contributed to the growing economic inequality nationwide with the goal of ensuring that Americans in every community have the foundations they need and the opportunities they deserve to achieve the American Dream.

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…