Solitary Confinement

Home / Institute Projects / Solitary Confinement


We explore attitudes towards prisoners, solitary confinement, and punishment while seeking to understand the role of Jewish values in social justice appeals. In partnership with American Jewish social justice group Uri L’Tzedek, we are generating insight on the role of such values and implement them in education programs.


The United States of America’s prison system is in a state of crisis. Today, a majority of American prison inmates face extended isolation at some point in their sentence. This practice, called “solitary confinement,” is recognized as torture in international human rights standards. Nonetheless, solitary confinement is ubiquitous in U.S. prisons, and is prevalent in many other countries around the world.


We are therefore:
  • Researching ways to promote alternatives to solitary confinement using Jewish social values and best practices in prison reform.
  • Conducting educational programs and legislative advocacy on the problems of solitary confinement.
  • Designing and implementing practical intervention based on original insights gleaned through the research.

 

This research project has four goals:

1) Gain knowledge regarding best practices for ending solitary confinement; design a practical intervention to implement and replicate these practices elsewhere.

2) Generate action-oriented knowledge regarding the attitudes of the Jewish community toward the prison population, solitary confinement, and punitive punishments more generally.

3) Change attitudes in the Jewish community regarding the prison population and the effects of punitive punishments; ensure that the discourse on prisoners in the Jewish community recognizes their human dignity.

4) Mobilize Jewish communities to advocate, through Jewish social values, for humane alternatives to solitary confinement in the wider American society, including through legislative advocacy.

The Tag-Uri L’Tzedek partnership is a synergy enabling the application of Jewish social values toward creating a better world. Uri L’Tzedek has a history of empowering the Jewish community to ensure human dignity; Tag has a record of providing practical insight by integrating Judaism and social science. Working together on this action research project is generating practical insights which can be amplified through educational programming in the community.

Project Managed by
Rabbi Ari Weiss
e:rabbiariweiss@utzedek.org

Advisory Board

Michael Ben-Avie, Ph.D
Academic psychologist, author and acclaimed researcher.
David Lehmann
Emeritus Reader in Social Science at the University of Cambridge
Heather Rice
Coordinator of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture’s efforts
Shmuly Yanklowitz
Founder and President of Uri L’Tzedek

Click here for the
Uri L’Tzedek Solitary confinement page

Click here to read more on the
National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Click here to read about Prison Reform: A Torah Perspective on the American Crisis