Uri L′Tezedek

"Solitary confinement breaks a man's will to live. He's never the same person again."

- Death row exoneree Anthony Graves

The American prison system is broken and it's one of the worst human rights crises in America today!

  • Solitary confinement is the prolonged isolation of a prisoner with virtually no external stimuli. Solitary confinement rates are increasing even faster than incarceration rates. There are currently 80,000 people locked in solitary confinement.
  • Solitarily confined prisoners are not the "worst of the worst." Most prisoners enter solitary confinement for minor rule violations. (See p. 56 of the report)

What will YOU do to end this crisis?


In commemoration of Yosef's prison sentence, starting in Parshat Vayeishev and ending in Parshat Miketz, Uri L'Tzedek has declared December 9 - 15 Jewish Prison Reform Week. Please read below for contextual information and a list of action steps you can take as a community.

Uri L'Tzedek is committed to ending solitary confinement. This degrading practice goes against the cardinal Jewish value of Tzelem Elokim, that all people are created in God's image. In the Talmud, our Rabbis on multiple occasions place safeguards on judicial penalties -- sometimes even canceling them -- in order to avoid embarrassing or degrading people convicted of a crime.

During Jewish Prison Reform Week Uri L'Tzedek encourages you to:

  1. Give a d'var Torah or teach a shiur on prison reform in your community.
  2. Host a Shabbat dinner and lead a discussion about prison reform.
  3. Write an article or an Op-Ed for your community newsletter or local paper.
  4. Tell 5 friends about the Uri L'Tzedek/NRCAT petition on solitary confinement.
  5. Join Uri L'Tzedek and Orthodox Rabbis to Support Prison Reform with our online pledge.
  6. Listen to Anthony Graves' first hand account of a person who lived in solitary confinement for 18 years, in his recent testimony to congress.
  7. Print out the NYCLU report "Boxed In: The True Cost of Extreme Isolation in New York's Prisons" and some Torah sources and leave it in a communal spot (your synagogue, Hillel, beit midrash etc)
  8. Make an announcement letting your community know about this important social justice issue and encourage them to take steps 1-7.

Resources from Prison Reform Yom Iyun - November 2012
1. Source Sheets: Prison Reform Social Justice Beit Midrash and Milim Havivin
2. See here for video from Gregory Reddick, past prisoner, Yom Iyun, November 2012.
3. NYCLU Report
4. Talking Points

Coalition Partners:
Read here about Uri L'Tzedek's partnership with the Tag Institute.

If you are would like to speak with Uri L'Tzedek's research consultant, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , about your community activities during Jewish Prison Reform Week, please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


See Here for Uri L'Tzedek Testimony, Senate (Solitary Confinement), June 2012

Below, you can read articles and watch videos by Uri L'Tzedek Founder & President Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz:


1. Pregnant Inmates Chained During Labor: On the Dignity of Childbirth

2. A Pesach Plea for Prison Reform

3. Alternatives to Incarceration: A Jewish Approach

4. Solitary Confinement: When Solitude is no Longer a Virtue

5. Prison Reform: A Torah Perspective on the American Crisis

. Torture, War, and Bin Laden: A Jewish Perspective



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