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Resolution on Prison Conditions and Prisoner Isolation

Whereas the Torah prohibits excessive punishment “lest your brother be degraded before your eyes” (Deuteronomy 25:2);

Whereas we believe that every human being is created in the divine image, and therefore deserving of dignity;

Whereas the rabbis of the Talmud describe God suffering over the pain of sinners and righteous alike;  

Whereas we believe that the gates of teshuvah (repentance) are always open;

Whereas prolonged solitary confinement is widely recognized around the world as a destructive practice that destroys prisoners’ minds, denies the opportunity for community, and violates the dignity and worth of every person. In recent years, prisoners held in isolation have engaged in hunger strikes to draw attention to the cruel conditions of their incarceration; and

Whereas tens of thousands of people in the United States are held in isolation, more than in any other country in the world. While some are violent offenders, many are mentally ill or held for non-violent infractions of prison rules. Jurisdictions from Maine to California, including states like Mississippi, have reduced the number of prisoners held in long-term isolation.

Therefore be it resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly call upon prison authorities to analyze this data supporting ending prolonged solitary confinement and the use of solitary confinement for mentally ill prisoners or for juveniles; and

Be it further resolved that the Rabbinical Assembly call on the United States to ratify international efforts to promote humane treatment of prisoners at all sites of detention around the world.

Passed by the Rabbinical Assembly Plenum, May, 2012