T’ruah Applauds NJ For Passing Nation’s Most Progressive Anti-Solitary Confinement Legislation

RELEASE DATE: July 12, 2019

“It is not good for a human being to be alone.”— Genesis 2:18

We applaud New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy for signing into law the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act. We congratulate the New Jersey T’ruah rabbis and cantors who worked for several years, in partnership with survivors of prolonged isolation and other allies, to pass this law.

The Isolated Confinement Restriction Act ends long-term solitary confinement and bans the use of this mode of punishment for vulnerable populations, such as people living with mental illness, pregnant women, and people who are LGBTQ. We call on other states to follow New Jersey’s lead in passing what is now the most progressive anti-solitary confinement legislation in the United States.

T’ruah has been working to restrict the use of solitary confinement for more than eight years, as a continuation of our leadership since 2004 on ending state-sponsored torture. International law considers solitary confinement of more than 15 days to constitute torture. This practice, imposed without any legal process, is disproportionately employed against vulnerable populations such as those with mental illness, and is associated with dramatically increased rates of suicide and attempted suicide.

Over the past several years, T’ruah rabbis and cantors have testified in Trenton, met with elected officials, and organized their own communities to ask their representatives to support this legislation. T’ruah was a founding member of the New Jersey Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement, a survivor-led coalition spearheaded by the ACLU of New Jersey and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. This coalition is responsible for this week’s amazing victory.

The rabbis of the Talmud described the practice of solitary confinement as one of slow death. The U.S. experience demonstrates the truth of this ancient wisdom.

We congratulate the New Jersey Legislature and Gov. Murphy for taking a major step to end this form of torture, the T’ruah clergy who organized their own communities to support this legislation, the survivors of prolonged isolation, and our other coalition partners for this groundbreaking victory. We commit to working with T’ruah supporters across the country to ensure that other states quickly follow New Jersey’s lead.

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights mobilizes a network of more than 2,000 rabbis and cantors from all streams of Judaism that, together with the Jewish community, act on the Jewish imperative to respect and advance the human rights of all people. Grounded in Torah and our Jewish historical experience and guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we call upon Jews to assert Jewish values by raising our voices and taking concrete steps to protect and expand human rights in North America, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories.

To learn more or to speak with T’ruah Executive Director Rabbi Jill Jacobs, contact Julie Wiener at jwiener@truah.org or (212) 845-5201.