RAC Criminal Justice Reform
As part of our continued series of speeches from our weekend with the RAC below is a speech by Joey Kosover, Freshman, and Zoey Carim, Senior, on criminal justice reform. The views that follow are those of the Religious Action Center, the political advocacy wing of the Reform movement, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Temple Beth David:
Hello! My name Sydney Carim and I am a resident of Wallingford, Connecticut, and my name is Joey Kosover and I am a resident of Cheshire, Connecticut. We are here as concerned citizens, and we are speaking to you alongside the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. We would like to use the time that we have with you to urge you to reintroduce the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act/ End Racial Profiling Act, and we thank you sincerely for co-sponsoring this bill when it was introduced in the 115th Congress.
My community is not a diverse one. My entire life I have been surrounded by mainly white, Christian adults and peers. As such, I cannot imagine what it would be like to walk into a room and not see one other person that looks like me. I cannot imagine what it would be like to feel as though the color of your skin makes you stick out like a sore thumb. If you are a person of color in Wallingford, Connecticut, that is exactly what the color of your skin does. One of my closest friends, Kristopher, experiences this isolation every day of his life. We both attend Sheehan High School, home to approximately 800 students. Of these 800 students, only six are people of color. Coming from a vibrant black community in Virginia, this was a humongous change for Kris. Instead of being able to walk the halls and feel safe and supported by fellow people of color, every day Kris walks the halls, fist bumping and high-fiving students that look nothing like him. Every day Kris attends basketball practice, unable to speak with those around him about the racism and discrimination that he must undergo. Though he puts on an air of “cool and confident”, internally Kris feels isolated. He finds it hard to make a true connection with those around him. I consider myself very lucky to know of the internal struggles and obstacles that Kris faces on a daily basis, for he has made it clear that he opens up to only those he is certain that he can trust. As we have grown closer, Kris has shared with me a hidden talent of his-he is an amazing rapper. He writes all of his own music and has given me permission to share one of his raps with you today. It goes like this:
“I hate when people are treated different
For their size, skin color and pigment
It’s indignant that you’re ignorant
If you’re not light skinned or white skinned
You don’t fit in like the white kids did
Talk about free shipping
On a boat for months with kids and children
You segregated and separated with no reparations
I want to be reparated
I want you to know the culture you spend time hating”
One of the main ways that kids like Kris are treated differently is by the criminal justice system. It scares me to know that there is a 33 percent chance that Kris will be incarcerated at least once in his lifetime. It frustrates me to know that Kris can be “segregated and separated with no reparations”, for a crime that would not put his fellow white citizens in jail. This disparity is rooted in the racial prejudice of our country, something that the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act/ End Racial Profiling Act can help relieve through the reduction of mandatory minimum sentences for some crimes. This would allow judges to use their discrepancy in sentencing, which would brighten the future of African-American children brought into the criminal justice system.
The racism of the criminal justice system has been embedded into American culture since it was established. It started with slaves and transgressed even after they were officially freed. When slaves were being brought out of plantations or being advocated for to get rights, all who helped the African People were criminals. Harriet Tubman and MLK junior who we now respect and love, were considered as scum of the earth. The situation may have improved, but this view has still remained in some people, especially in some in the police force. People of color are always stereotyped as the drug abusers, as the people who commit all the crimes and end up in jail, but white people end up doing the same crimes and get off with no punishment. One in every seventeen white people will serve time in prison, and now one in three African Americans will serve time. This statistic ratio is un-proportional and unfair, and it is all because of the racist tendencies that have developed along the long years of slavery and prejudice. Over two million people are in jails, be it local, state, or federal. This is the highest population of prisons of all countries of the world. This just goes to show how broken the American criminal justice system is with these unbalanced and incredibly unfair statistics.
Leviticus 19:15 states that you must not show deference or favoritism to the rich or poor, and to judge those around you fairly. This doesn’t just apply to class, but race and religion. There is so much racial and religious mistreatment and imbalance, and many Jewish texts make reference to the unfair or prejudice treatment of others. The Union for Reform Judaism Resolution stated that “Preventing and punishing criminal conduct are among the primary obligations of government at all levels. But it is also the obligation of the government to ensure that no one is unjustly accused, convicted, or punished…” This is summarized directly to serving justice is important, but it is just as important to make sure that it is deserved. Laws have been passed that allows police to pull over people with reasonable suspicion, and this is greatly abused. People of color and religious minority are pulled over and insulted and abused for absolutely no reason. Racial profiling does not just have roots in America as a country, but has even deeper roots in our Jewish religion, stretching all through Jewish history.
We give thanks to Senator Blumenthal. Senator Murphy for his endorsement of the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act. Representative DeLauro for her endorsement of the End of Racial Profiling Act in the 115th congress, which sparked an interest in the criminal justice of America. We came alongside the Religious Action Center to propose a reintroduction of the End Racial Profiling Act, so we can better educate our American police force to do their jobs without any racial or religious prejudices. This will get us out of the highest incarcerated population position, and decrease the amount of anti-semitic or racist actions, which has become an epidemic of a horrible degree. We as the Jewish community urge you to do your duty to your country and its people to get rid of these hate crimes. We thank you for your time, and encourage you to take this proposal into consideration.