Interfaith Action for Human Rights is a coalition of Mid-Atlantic faith communities and human rights groups that believe in a multi-faith, multi-racial, and multi-ethnic society based on human rights and respect for human dignity.
Our mission is to strengthen bridges among regional faith communities to counter racism and religious bigotry and to work to redress pervasive injustice in our criminal justice system. Particularly, we seek to change the culture, policy or practices that cause torture or violate human dignity.
Guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the wisdom of our respective faiths, we work with faith and civil society groups to advocate for more just and compassionate laws and policies. We also develop pastoral and educational programs to engage and mobilize faith communities and the public.
Help End the Abuse of Solitary Confinement in Maryland!
The Maryland State House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote this week on HB786, Corrections-Restrictive Housing-Limitations. Whether you are a constituent or not, these are the key Delegates to contact this week TO URGE THEIR SUPPORT for HB786.
1 Daniel Morhaim - Baltimore County, District 11; 410-841-3054; Room 362
2 Vanessa Atterbeary - Howard County, District13; 410-841-3471; Room 424
3 Curt Anderson - Baltimore City, District 43; 410-841-3291; Room 314
4 Kathleen Dumais (Vice-Chair) -Montgomery County, District 15; 410-841-3052; Room 101
5 Joseph Vallario, Jr. (Chairperson) - PG County, District 23B; 410-841-3488; Room 101
6 Frank Conaway - Baltimore City, District 40; 410-841-3189; Room 314
7 Trent Kittleman - Howard and Carroll Counties, District 9A; 410-841-3556; Room 202
Please call or email as many of these key legislators as you can today! All the better if you are a constituent, but even if you are not, you can speak as a concerned citizen of Maryland. You can check your district by going to www.mdelect.net and entering your street address.
If you will be in Annapolis this week and can stop by their offices, that would be even more effective!
Key points to make:
• This bill is in alignment with the American Correctional Association Expected Practices for Restrictive Housing for 2018. It makes obligatory adherence to reasonable and tested practices, something the State has been promising since 2012.
• Maryland state prisons placed 73% of its inmates in restrictive housing in 2017 - alone or with another inmate - 22 hours or more in a cell the size of a parking spot for an average of 45 days.
• There is broad agreement from national corrections organizations, health organizations and researchers that prolonged isolation can be profoundly and even permanently psychologically disabling. The UN Rapporteur on Torture has declared that time in isolation beyond 15 days is tantamount to torture.
• In the past two years Maryland has released more than 500 individuals directly from this harsh environment directly to the public, a public safety issue.
Here is a sample message you can use or elaborate on:
I am asking you to support SB539/HB786. The bill limits the amount of time a person can be put into restrictive housing (often called solitary confinement). The harmful effects of solitary confinement include anxiety, depression, an inability to think clearly, obsessive thoughts, paranoia, psychosis, and suicide. By supporting SB539/HB786, no prisoner can be placed in solitary confinement for more than 30 days at one time. By supporting this bill, you will affirm that everyone deserves humane treatment. Thank you for supporting the bill!
Sincerely, your name
IAHR's End Solitary Campaign
Watch IAHR officers, Kimberly Jenkins-Snodgrass and Gay Gardner speak about solitary confinement at Red Onion Prison and in Virginia prisons. TV Inside Scoop is actually two separate weekly one hour live political shows produced in Fairfax Virginia in a state-of-the-art "Virtual Set" digital studio. The Virginia oriented Sunday show is 6:30 to 7:30 PM Eastern time and the Monday National/International show is from 7:00 to 8:00 PM Eastern time.
Gay and Kimberly will also be featured in a panel discussion about solitary in Virginia on March 9, 2018 in Reston. See the flyer below.
Women Incarcerated-Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at 7 p.m. in Baltimore
A panel discussion on challenges incarcerated women face in Maryland prisons and in returning home.
Chizuk Amuno Congregation, 8100 Stevenson Road, Baltimore, MD, 21208
Wednesday, March 14 from 7 to 9 p.m.
In addition to being a high school English teacher, Diamonte Brown is a board member of Interfaith Action for Human Rights. She has also organized two Advocacy Days for IAHR and made presentations about solitary confinement at different Maryland congregations. Diamonte had an early brush with the criminal justice system, receiving probation. She has also lost a sister to violence.
Kimberly Haven’s journey as an advocate began when she sought to regain her own voting rights after release from a Maryland prison in 2001. As a result of Kimberly’s hard work and the support and guidance of organizations and affected individuals, the Maryland House and Senate in March 2007 approved the Voting Rights Protection Act, which re-enfranchised 50,000 residents who had completed their sentences. Since that time, Kimberly Haven has served as the executive director of Justice Maryland and the Maryland Justice Project. Currently she is a project director for the Maryland Public Defender’s Pre-Trial and Bail Reform Campaign. In addition, she is serving as an advocate for IAHR’s campaign to end the abuse of long term isolation in Maryland state prisons.
Nicole Hanson is the executive director of Out for Justice, a group that advocates for laws and policies that will assist returning citizens find employment and housing. As a student she had trouble adjusting to not being able to financially contribute to her family. With what felt like very few options, Hanson made a choice that landed her in prison for nine months. Those nine months changed her life and shifted her purpose.
When she came home Nicole found it difficult to find a job with a criminal record, especially in politics. She reached out to a friend in Annapolis that suggested she join an organization called Out for Justice. Out for Justice helped Nicole to strengthen her voice and work hard to change legislation. Nicole’s work ethic and commitment to the organization quickly garnered her support of the board and other members of the organization and she quickly became an integral part of the program. Now as the director of Out for Justice, Hanson advocates to change laws that negatively impact people with criminal records.
Charles M. Feinberg was a congregational rabbi for 42 years. He served and led congregations in Wisconsin, New York, British Columbia, and Washington, DC. He served as a rabbi at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, DC from 2006 to 2015. During his career, Rabbi Feinberg has been an advocate for Central American Refugees, the poor and the homeless, for interfaith dialogue and cooperation, and for respecting the human rights of both Palestinians and Israelis. Rabbi Feinberg received his rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Rabbi Feinberg recently began his third year as Executive Director of IAHR.
IAHR'S Pen Pal Project Gets Off to a Great Start
IAHR will be offering its next online pen pal orientation on Wednesday, April 25 at 7 p.m. All you have to do is register by clicking this link. If you have been unable to attend the in-person orientations, here is an opportunity to become a pen pal in the comfort of your home or office! Just sign up and we will do the rest.
IAHR’S Pen Pal Program is designed to link members of churches, synagogues, mosques and temples to District residents in BOP facilities. We are asking volunteers from each religious community to sign up to correspond with one imprisoned D.C. resident at least once a month for one year. We will be starting with ten Bureau of Prison facilities, and will expand beyond these to residents in other facilities based on our initial success.
Over 170 men and women in the BOP have already signed up for a pen pal. They are looking for someone who will reach out to them on a regular basis.
As of the middle of March, over a hundred people from various walks of life have signed up to be a pen pal with someone in prison. Yet we still need at least another 70 pen pals!
Sign up for the next online orientation on Wednesday, April 25 at 7 p.m. by clicking here.
At this orientation, we will go over guidelines which will be sent to you in advance. We will also give you the name and address of a prisoner to write to. We will address any questions you may have.
We also plan to bring volunteers together periodically to reflect on their experiences and nurture the community of people who have come together to provide support and encouragement to this important segment of our community.
Be part of our effort to be a supportive presence for our incarcerated neighbors by joining this Pen Pal Program. We hope you will find it a rewarding and an enlightening experience.
For more information contact Rabbi Charles Feinberg at email@example.com or by calling 202-669-7700
Where We Stand
Programmatic Goals for 2017-2018
Reforming Criminal Justice
- Work with the Maryland Prisoners’ Rights coalition to support pending legislation in MD to improve prison conditions and restrict the use of solitary confinement. Participate in the 2018 Advocacy Day and other activities.
- Identify and mobilize a coalition to promote legislation and/or executive action to end prolonged solitary confinement in Virginia.
- Revive efforts to limit prolonged solitary confinement in the DC jail.
- Support individual prisoners and their families in efforts to improve prison conditions, especially around solitary confinement.
- Support national efforts to close Guantanamo.
- Advocate for policies and programs that ensure the productive re-entry of returning citizens from our region into society.
- Recruit and orient at least 30 pen pals for DC citizens in federal prisons.
Combating Religious Bigotry
- Lead and participate in annual interfaith projects such as “Imam-Rabbi Summit” and “Spread Hummus Not Hate” sponsored by IAHR and the Greater Washington Muslim-Jewish Forum.
- Develop an outreach strategy to engage more regional faith communities in the struggle against anti-Islamic bigotry.
What We Do
- Against Islamophobia
- Against Prolonged Solitary Confinement
- For closing Guantanamo
- Organize Petitions to end torture and solitary confinement
- Sponsor screenings, speakers and programs on the abuse of solitary confinement
- Sponsor legislation on solitary confinement
- Testify before state legislatures and local governments
- Track issues to keep our supporters and the public up to date
- Write articles, letters to the editor and on social media about our agenda
- Form coalitions with other human and civil rights organizations to advocate for criminal justice reform and to oppose anti-Muslim bigotry
How to Help
- Educate your faith community on our core missions
- Show Hawo's Dinner (anti-Muslim sentiment)
- Show Torture in your backyard (Solitary Confinement)
- Invite an IAHR guest speaker
- Provide advocacy on one of IAHR campaigns
- Organize a letter writing campaign
How to Contact IAHR