Despite its name, we do not believe that our criminal justice system is just. In the past 20 years, all forms of crime have declined, yet we continue to incarcerate more people for longer periods of time. Evidence shows that our prison system is both profit motivated and powered by the racial oppression that underlies many of the systems that remain fundamental to our society. We believe in the need for a justice system that is truly fair and just.
Decriminalizing Communities is a JCA campaign which combines our work on criminal justice reform and immigrant rights. We believe these two systems are two arms of the same body: the process of criminalization. Decriminalizing Communities synthesizes our work to dismantle this system.
Our vision is of a criminal justice system that treats incarceration as a last resort. We envision a system that emphasizes rehabilitation, drug treatment, mental health care and community-based services to prevent incarceration, and support people upon their release. We envision a system that holds violent offenders accountable while upholding their human rights. We envision a community-centered system that uses comprehensive approaches to public safety. We envision a system that acknowledges the suffering caused by institutional oppression and that above all, works to eliminate the injustices that lead to many people becoming entrapped in our criminal justice system, and being condemned to cycles of despair and hopelessness.
Jewish Community Action is currently working on two campaigns related to criminal justice reform and the impact of mass incarceration: One addressing the for-profit private prison system and seeking to push back on the building and opening of private prisons in Minnesota, and one demanding the restoration of voting rights to to felons who have completed incarceration and are living and working in their communities.
Jewish Community Action has been consistent in our work for immigrant rights. We are instructed by our history and by our text--the Torah commands us 36 times to love, protect, and respect those new to our communities. Our faith stresses the importance of family, and compels us to support others in pursuit of better opportunities for their families in a different land.
Since our founding, our immigrant rights work has taken many different forms. Most recently, during the 2013 state legislative session, we were part of a diverse coalition that passed the Minnesota DREAM Act, making higher education more accessible to immigrant students. Prior to this monumental victory, we worked for city separation ordinances to keep local law enforcement from becoming involved in federal immigration law; to stop raids and keep families from being torn apart; and to work directly with the community of Postville, Iowa, and to march in Iowa (as recently as May 2013) to make known the inhumane business practices and broken immigration system that led to the 2008 immigration raid that devastated their town.
Currently, our immigrant rights work involves initiatives at both the local and federal levels. Locally, JCA has worked for years to pass legislation that would enable aspiring citizens to drive legally in the state, thus making roads safer for everyone.
Nationally, JCA is part of a coalition working to protect the rights of immigrants detained as a result of the Secure Communities Act. The act, passed by Congress, is designed to detain and deport immigrants who commit felonies or other serious crimes, but has been used to target, detain, and deport immigrants whose only crime is lacking documentation. This act has created a climate of fear in many Latino communities, and has torn apart countless families. It is our hope that comprehensive immigration reform can put a stop to fear and unjust detentions.