Reengaging the Jewish Community in Civil Rights


Getting Started: Educate and Engage Your Community

Mass incarceration is not just a federal issue. In fact, more people are incarcerated in state and local facilities than federal prisons. We believe that greater Jewish involvement can help communities understand the issue from a local perspective.

To facilitate this, JCPA prepared a field manual, Criminal Justice Reform: Reengaging the Jewish Community in Civil Rights, which we encourage you to share with your local boards and leadership. We designed the manual for JCRCs, so in it you will find a call to action, which makes the case for why the Jewish community should take up criminal justice; an overview of the problems; and step-by-step instructions for how to find out what is going on in your region, start educating your community, and join local coalitions and organizations working in this space. 


Recommended Viewing

Videos are an excellent way to learn about criminal justice reform. We encourage you to organize a “lunch and learn” and/or viewing party with a discussion session afterward. Suggested videos include:

VICE Special: Fixing the System

Netflix Documentary: 13th

VICELAND: The War on Weed

Recommended Reading

Collective reading and book clubs are an effective way to raise awareness about the criminal justice system and systemic racism, and the impact on our country and our communities, particularly communities of color.

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Additional Resources

T’ruah: Handbook for Jewish Communities Fighting Mass Incarceration

Repair the World, in partnership with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, OneTable and Gather: Turn the Tables on Racial Justice: Shabbat Dinner Host Guide


JCPA’s Criminal Justice Reform Initiative aims to educate and empower the Jewish community relations field and the broader Jewish community on the civil rights movement of today and to activate it at the federal, state, and local levels.

Inequities within the criminal justice system constitute one of the major crises facing our country. This site provides educational, advocacy, and engagement resources for Jewish community relations leaders to involve their communities in reform efforts.

Know the Facts

The U.S. has just 4.4% of the world’s population, but houses roughly 25% of the world’s prisoners—over 2.2 million people.

1 in every 15 black men and 1 in every 36 Latino men is incarcerated.

Over 2.7 million children have at least one parent in prison.

Nearly half of all state prisoners are nonviolent offenders and 16% are drug offenders.

Despite similar levels of drug usage, 66% of drug offenders are black and Latino—that’s roughly 10x the rate of white users.

Read more…