T’ruah campaigns for human rights in prisons


T'ruahBy Ed Brayton

FBB’s second-quarter Challenge the Gap beneficiary, T’ruah, which refers to itself as the “rabbinic call for human rights,” has been doing important work on behalf of those whose rights are violated, especially in prison.

In response to revelations of the routine use of torture by the American government following the 9/11 attacks, T’ruah launched a project called Honor the Image of God: Stop Torture Now, A Jewish Campaign to End U.S.-Sponsored Torture. The project included a petition campaign to urge President Obama and Congress to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay that was home to so much illegal abuse of detainees.

Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, the director of North American programs for T’ruah, wrote an op-ed in the Huffington Post a few weeks ago in which she quoted Thomas Wilner, an attorney who has represented many of the inmates at Gitmo who have been abused and tortured.

“What is happening at Guantanamo is simply no longer tolerable,” he said. “It is a terrible human tragedy, and it is also a continuing outrage to our values as Americans. These few Arab men, many of whom have long been cleared, are stranded at an island prison and ignored because they have no domestic constituency to speak on their behalf—except for us. We must do so.”

T’ruah joined with 37 other faith groups to send a letter to President Obama asking him to make good on his promise to close the notorious prison.

But the group’s fight for human rights for prison inmates does not stop there. They have also campaigned for an end to the use of solitary confinement in civilian prisons in the United States. The group’s statement on the matter is principled and clear:

“Solitary confinement is the most extreme form of punishment besides death, and should only be used in the most extreme circumstances. That is why T’ruah calls on the United States to end the use of prolonged solitary confinement in all sites of detention. We have a moral obligation to uphold the dignity and the mental health of those currently incarcerated, whatever their crime. By decreasing the overuse of solitary confinement, the U.S. can save money, reduce prison violence, and most importantly, uphold the human rights and dignity that all human beings are guaranteed by the Constitution, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Jewish law.”