NJSJR Position Statement on Mass Incarceration

“You are slow to anger and quick to be appeased. For you do not desire the death of the condemned, rather, that they turn from their path and live and you wait for them until the day of their death, and if they repent, you receive them immediately.” (Machzor, Unetane Tokef)

NJSJR ADOPTS THE FOLLOWING STATEMENTS ON MASS INCARCERATION PUBLISHED BY THE AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION ON ITS WEBSITE (accessed on November 4, 2016).

“The United States incarcerates almost 25 percent of the prisoners in the entire world despite having only 5 percent of the world’s population. Hundreds of thousands of people are locked up not because of any dangerous behavior, but because they could not pay off a fine or were convicted of a nonviolent drug or property crime. These people are disproportionately poor people and people of color.

Racial bias, both implicit and explicit, keeps more people of color in prisons and on probation than ever before. One in three black men can expect to be incarcerated in his lifetime. Compare that to one in six Latino males and one in 17 white males. The effect of the War on Drugs on communities of color has been tragic. At no other point in U.S. history have so many people—disproportionately people of color—been deprived of their liberty.

Drug arrests now account for a quarter of the people locked up in America, but drug use rates have remained steady. Over the last 40 years, we have spent trillions of dollars on the failed and ineffective War on Drugs. Drug use has not declined, while millions of people—disproportionately poor people and people of color—have been caged and then branded with criminal records that pose barriers to employment, housing, and stability.

Problems like mental illness, substance use disorders, and homelessness are more appropriately addressed outside of the criminal justice system altogether. Services like drug treatment and affordable housing cost less and can have a better record of success. It’s time we got serious about pulling our money out of incarceration and putting it into systems that foster healthy communities.

Incarceration triggers a cascade of imperiled rights not only for former prisoners, who face disenfranchisement, denial of housing, the inability to find work and food insecurity, but also for their dependents. Mass incarceration of people of color have devastating and debilitating effects on communities of color.”

NOTE: This text is copywritten, so any references to it should be attributed to the American Civil Liberties Union.