"Exalted and High, Mighty and Awesome, You bring low the proud and lift up the fallen; You free the imprisoned, redeem the humble, and help the poor."

-Blessing after the Shema, Morning service

Mass incarceration is a racial justice issue.

We cannot achieve real change unless we recognize and name that racism is at the root of this disaster. As Bryan Stevenson puts it: "Slavery didn't end in 1865, it just evolved." Though just 5% of the world's population lives in the United States, our country imprisons 25% of the world's incarcerated people, and people of color are disproportionately targeted.

T’ruah’s campaign to end mass incarceration engages rabbis, cantors, and their communities in making concrete change locally and nationally to our broken criminal justice system. We believe that the goal of our criminal justice system should be teshuvah, not simply punishment. We draw inspiration from Jewish legal writings that aim to create a criminal justice system rooted in dignity and justice for both perpetrator and victim.

Our work includes:

  • Organizing to end prolonged solitary confinement, which international law experts have classified as torture.
  • Advocating for an end to police practices that result in disproportionate stops, arrests, and deaths of people of color.
  • Organizing rabbis and their communities to protest police violence and to demand full investigations in cases of killings by police officers.
  • Advocating for more just sentencing policies.
  • Helping Jewish communities to volunteer with incarcerated individuals and their families, employ the formerly incarcerated, and engage in local campaigns to change state criminal justice laws.
  • Educating the Jewish community about why our current system of mass incarceration benefits none of us.
  • Educating our communities about the intersection between the U.S.’s prison industrial complex and the detention of immigrants. See our immigration campaign for more.

Local organizing:

  • In New York City, chaverim are engaged in ending all solitary confinement in city jails, and working toward the closure of Rikers Island. In Westchester, we are part of the #CommunitiesNotCages coalition to overhaul New York State’s racist and draconian sentencing laws.
  • The Massachusetts T’ruah cluster is working in coalition with formerly incarcerated women and their families, who are leading the fight to pass a moratorium on new prison and jail construction in the state — stopping a $50 million proposed women’s prison and re-allocating taxpayer money to communities most affected by mass incarceration.



Handbook for Jewish Communities Fighting Mass Incarceration

This handbook provides a comprehensive guide for Jewish communities learning and engaging in issues related to mass incarceration.

Mi Sheberach for People Held in Solitary Confinement

"May the Holy Blessed One be filled with mercy for them, strengthening them to withstand this act of torture and keeping them from all harm."

Balak and Solitary: Dealing With Our Desire To Curse Those Who Harm Us

"In this reorientation from one way of doing things to a better one lies the relevance, power, and teaching for our broken criminal justice system today."

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