Domestic Resolutions

Resolution on Criminal Justice and Drug Policy Reform

Adopted at the 2015 JCPA Town Hall

Over the last four decades, this country has pursued a drug policy that has done little to curtail usage and has had significant negative impact on our society. Drug arrests comprise half the arrests in our criminal justice system, and approximately half of those are marijuana arrests—the vast majority of which are for simple possession for personal use. There are more marijuana arrests each year in this country than for all violent crimes combined. Overall levels of incarceration in the U.S. have increased dramatically since the 1970s.

Arrests and prosecutions for drug offenses fall vastly disproportionately on African-Americans and Latinos, despite usage among Caucasians at similar rates. Recent police/citizen encounters resulting in the deaths of black men in Ferguson, Baltimore, and other cities have highlighted the degree to which our law enforcement systems focus disproportionately on minority communities. The events in Ferguson and Baltimore underscore the dangers of continuing our policing emphasis on drug possession, since the drastic increases in arrests for drug possession and other low-level non-violent crimes have fueled the increase in negative police-community interactions.

Long sentences and mandatory incarceration for minor drug offenses, including marijuana possession, have not significantly deterred drug use or reduced addiction rates, which are in any event low for marijuana compared with other drugs—both legal and illegal. Instead, mass arrests and incarceration have removed large numbers of people from productive engagement in their communities. Criminalization degrades the conditions that can aid in recovery for people who are addicted—such as access to treatment and support networks, gainful employment, and education. Mass incarceration is a significant contributing factor to poverty, income inequality, and family instability. African-American and Latino leaders with whom we serve in coalitions routinely point to racial disparities in the criminal justice system as one of their highest priorities. Major civil rights organizations regularly call for changes in drug laws as one strategy to address these concerns and have backed efforts in federal and state legislatures to change policy on marijuana in particular.

 

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06:40 PM Oct 16, 2015 - 0 comments permalink


Resolution on Paid Sick Leave

Adopted at the 2015 JCPA Town Hall

The rights of workers have long been a bedrock social justice concern and a priority of American Jews. With strong Jewish leadership, major achievements such as the minimum wage, the forty-hour work week, the abolition of child labor, and family and medical leave have enhanced the quality of life for millions over successive generations.

This commitment is inspired by Jewish tradition that speaks strongly to valuing workers’ dignity as well as maintaining healthy families. We are taught in the Torah, “You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow Israelite or a stranger in one of the communities of your land. You must pay out the wages due on the same day, before the sun sets, for the worker is needy and urgently depends on it; else a cry to the Eternal will be issued against you and you will incur guilt” (Deut. 24:14-15).

The landmark 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act recognized the familial needs that tug at every worker. But neither this nor any other federal law requires employers to continue to pay workers during their family or medical leave. By supporting paid sick leave we hope to ensure that no one must choose between their health or the health of a family member and their financial security.

 

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06:34 PM Oct 16, 2015 - 0 comments permalink


Resolution on Confronting Poverty: Affordable High-Quality Early Childhood Care and Education for Ages Zero Through Five

Adopted at the 2015 JCPA Town Hall

Children, when born, do not choose their parents or their circumstances. No child, once born, should suffer through poverty and adversity. Every child should be viewed as equally precious and worthy.

In the U.S., a child’s prospect for the future is more dependent on a parent’s income and education than in any other advanced country. Rabbi Michael Rothbaum of Danville, California observes: “As Jews, who’ve suffered generations of personal and economic degradation, we should know better. As Jews possessed of a timeless text that links us to our economically exploited ancestors in Egypt, we should do better. And as Jews who gifted the world the concept of tzedek, of a just and fair economic order, we should be better. It is our job, our sacred task.”

Recent neurological studies draw a connection between the effects of poverty on young children’s brain development, such that living in poverty subjects them to additional stress and hindered development compared to their counterparts of greater economic advantage. Stress and adversity (emotional, physical, chemical) that occur before age two in the human brain result in long-term irreversible damage. Before the age of six, the brain quadruples in weight and reaches 90 percent of its adult size. The brain is the most flexible early in life and its capacity for change decreases with age.

 

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06:31 PM Oct 16, 2015 - 0 comments permalink


Resolution on Reproductive Health

Adopted by the 2014 JCPA Plenum

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) has a strong interest in the subject of reproductive health including family planning and abortion – a subject extensively addressed in Jewish law and practice.

Rabbis in our community offer private and compassionate pastoral care to women who seek out their spiritual guidance on a range of matters related to their reproductive health and pregnancy-related care, including abortion, thereby enabling a woman to consider the rich teachings of the Jewish tradition while making her own private moral decision.

Our Jewish community is also informed by the unique experience we have had living in the United States, where constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom has afforded unparalleled Jewish security. Our community has thrived and prospered in this country, while freely practicing our religion. Equal protection under the law, freedom of religious expression, and the separation of religion and state have provided a modern cultural overlay to our Jewish community’s unique understanding of reproductive freedom, including access to family planning and abortion.

 

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05:07 PM Mar 12, 2014 - 0 comments permalink


Resolution on Increasing the Minimum Wage

Adopted by the 2014 JCPA Plenum

Jewish tradition repeatedly calls for social justice, demanding that we not only feed the hungry, but also help those in need become self-sufficient. The Torah repeatedly emphasizes the need to treat workers fairly. According to Deuteronomy 24:14-15, "You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer ... but you must pay him his wages on the same day, … for he is needy and urgently depends on it….” The federal minimum wage, $7.25 since July, 2009, has failed to keep up with the cost of living. Had it kept up since 1968 when it was $1.60, in today’s dollars it would now be close to $11.00 an hour. The federal minimum wage law was enacted in 1938 to establish a floor, below which wages would not go, but for too many workers the floor is also the ceiling.

Historically, minimum wage workers were more likely to be the less advantaged among us -- younger rather than older, female rather than male, African-American or Latino rather than white -- and that is still the case. However, because of the lagging economic recovery and continued high unemployment, more workers of every age, gender and race find themselves working at jobs that only pay the minimum wage.

 

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04:57 PM Mar 12, 2014 - 0 comments permalink


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