“I’m a Jewish teacher fighting for my students in Rikers”

March 2, 2018

Big news! Bend the Arc: New York is joining the fight for criminal justice reform in our state.

Here’s why: Our broken criminal justice system is separating families and devastating lives. And our Jewish values tell us that when a law is unjust, when it perpetuates racism, it’s our responsibility to change it.

In New York, 70% of people in county jails have not been convicted of any crime. Unable to afford their bail, and waiting months or even years for trials, they risk losing their jobs, housing, custody of children — even their lives.

Sandra Bland, found dead in her cell in Texas, and Kalief Browder, who committed suicide in New York, are just two heartbreaking examples of what happens when you can’t afford your bail.

As Jews called to do the work of justice, we’re are teaming up with the #FREENewYork coalition, a new campaign to solve New York’s jail crisis through bold legislative solutions.

As an organizer with our New York chapter, I’m often moved to hear the personal stories that motivate our leaders to action.

Today, I’d like to share Bend the Arc volunteer Joe’s story to help you better understand the issues and why he’s showing up for this fight:

Read Joe’s blog post: “I’m a Jewish teacher fighting for my students in Rikers.

Joe, a former public school teacher, shares how New York’s broken pre-trial system affected his students. He also explains the smart legislative solutions #FREENewYork is seeking to end a system that punishes the poor for being poor.

Joe writes, “I’m joining this campaign as a Jewish person, because I believe that I am my brother’s keeper that it’s my responsibility to stand with my neighbors who are impacted by a two-tiered system of justice that’s tearing communities apart.”

Free New York speak out in Albany

#FREENewYork leader Nathaniel sharing his story

Nathaniel, a #FREENewYork campaign leader, is one of the people Joe is standing alongside. At a recent speak out in Albany, he said, “These systems oppress us because we didn't build these systems. But now we can build them. We can make them fair.”

Bend the Arc leaders in New York are organizing the Jewish community to follow the leadership of Nathaniel and all who have been impacted by an unjust system to call for bold reform and radical transformation.

When we do so, we’re not only pursuing real justice right here in New York — we’re joining California, New Jersey, North Carolina, and more in a national criminal justice revolution that directly refutes President Trump’s and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ dystopian ‘law and order’ agenda.

Educating yourself is the first step toward action — read and share Joe’s blog post on why New York needs reform now.