As we move away from Passover and start the count to Shavuot, Jewish communities across the world have been engaging with themes of freedom, memory, and escape from oppression. We are also, however, engaging with themes of transformation, with hoping for a better future, and moving ourselves and our communities toward a new reality.
Grounded in these themes, the Boston area Jewish community is deepening our commitment and involvement in the #NoNewWomensPrison campaign this Sunday, with a local canvass – Toward the Promised Land – hosted by Kavod, T’ruah MA, and Boston Workers Circle and focused on elevating conversation about alternatives to incarceration.
For the last several years, Jewish community members have increasingly been getting involved in the campaign, which is led by formerly incarcerated women and their families from the National Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls and Families for Justice as Healing. These women led the campaign through insurmountable barriers and passed the Prison Moratorium legislation – a 5 year pause on new prison and jail construction – in one legislative session. The legislation was vetoed by then-Governor Baker, but the people power built and flexed last session was unprecedented and a testament to the changing tides of conversation in the Commonwealth. We have an opportunity as a Jewish community to follow the lead of FJAH’s incredible organizers and work together so that when the bill reaches Governor’s Healey’s desk, this time it will be signed into law. The bill, S1979/H1795, would prevent construction of new prisons and jails but would allow necessary repairs.
Just like Passover, the campaign to stop new prison construction (namely a proposed $50 million new women’s prison) goes beyond stopping a cycle of incarceration and oppression. It is also about Reimagining Communities—a series of community initiatives led by campaign leaders to build alternative structures for community health and safety in the most incarcerated corridor of the Commonwealth. These initiatives are the very efforts which will lead to a besere velt—a better world, where no one is treated as disposable or disappeared from their community.
There are countless opportunities to support the Prison Moratorium campaign: folks can learn more about the campaign on the Families for Justice as Healing’s website, call their legislators and the Governor using their toolkit, and RSVP to join the canvass here. BWC members can get involved through the Acting for Racial and Economic Justice committee by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.