Commission on Social Action and Rabbis Organizing Rabbis Lobby Congress on Sentencing Reform

April 15, 2016Adam Waters

On Tuesday, members of the Commission on Social Action and Rabbis Organizing Rabbis came together to advocate key Senators to support the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S. 2123). The bipartisan criminal justice reform bill passed out of committee last October, but has been stalled in the Senate for the past several months.

CSA members and rabbis spoke passionately in their Senators’ offices about how our values as Reform Jews compel us to address the over-criminalization of drug offenses and the mass incarceration of people of color. They raised up the ethical mandate to maintain a criminal justice system rooted not only in punishment for wrongdoing, but also in fairness, mercy, rehabilitation and redemption. Among the many highlights of the day, the delegations from New York and California got to meet and thank in-person Senators Schumer and Feinstein, respectively. Both Sen. Schumer and Sen. Feinstein are cosponsors of S. 2123.

The lobby day ended on an extremely positive note, with the announcement that Senator Kirk (R-IL) had agreed to cosponsor S. 2123. This was particularly exciting news for the RAC because the Reform Movement has played an active role in advocacy efforts directed at Sen. Kirk. For example, in January, Rabbi Seth Limmer from Chicago Sinai Congregation participated in an Illinois press call led by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to urge Sen. Kirk to support sentencing reform.

The addition of Senators Kirk to the list of cosponsors will hopefully bring new momentum to sentencing reform in the Senate. Now is the time for another concerted advocacy push. Join us in advancing criminal justice reform by filling out our action alert or calling your Senators to tell them to support the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act.

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