Racial Justice

B’nai Sholom Seeks Members Who Care about Racial Justice to Join in Statewide ‘Less is More NY’ Campaign

As members of a synagogue that prioritizes racial justice, we have the opportunity to turn our interest into action—by representing B’nai Sholom as RAC-NY launches its campaign to pass an important piece of racial justice legislation – Less is More NY. (RAC-NY is The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism’s New York State advocacy project).

In January, more than 300 clergy and lay leaders from around the state and leaders from RAC-NY chose to advocate for passage of the Less Is More NY bill, which would end the practice of sending people to prison for minor, technical parole violations after they have completed their sentences.

How is this a racial justice issue? Black people are 12 times more likely to be incarcerated in New York City jails for technical parole violations than white people. 7,500 individuals per year who are out on parole are immediately re-incarcerated (before they have a chance to get a hearing) for missing an appointment, staying out beyond a curfew, testing positive for alcohol, and other minor, technical violations after their release from prison. New York re-incarcerates more people for minor transgressions like these than any other state in our country except Illinois, and 40 percent of all people sent to prison in New York are sent for non-criminal technical violations of parole. This not only costs N.Y. roughly $650 million a year, but it also costs lives. Re-incarceration for a technical, non-criminal violation costs individuals their jobs and separates families. And the first COVID deaths in NYS prisons were inmates at Rikers awaiting hearings for technical parole violations.

A number of district attorneys support this bill, including Albany County DA David Soares. Read Soares’ compelling opinion article, which ran in the Times Union at https://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Commentary-Less-is-More-parole-reform-law-would-15152170.php.

Believe it or not, South Carolina, Louisiana and Missouri have already passed legislation similar to Less is More, while N.Y. has not. Working with RAC-NY, we can impact legislation here. We will do this by meeting virtually with our state legislators and explaining why this racial justice issue is important to us as we work to make N.Y. a more just, compassionate state. Our representatives need to see that their constituents of faith support this legislation!

B’nai Sholom and Beth Emeth – with which we are working on this — had our first virtual meeting with the legislative director for NYS Sen. Neil Breslin. Ten very passionate and knowledgeable B’nai Sholom congregants participated. Virtual meetings with our local State Assembly members and other local Senators will take place over the next few weeks. To join our team’s visits with these legislators, please contact Gail Volk, the B’nai Sholom RAC-NY representative, at gvolk53@gmail.com. The more people we have at the virtual meetings, the more impact we can have.

In addition, we can help by signing up now at this link https://rac.org/NYlobby to join the launch of RAC-NY’s virtual lobby month on the steps of the virtual State Capitol on March 1 from 5:30-6 p.m. ET and join the closing rally to conclude our month of virtual lobbying on April 6 from 5:30-6 p.m. ET. Join us!

B'nai Sholom Albany NY