IAHR represents people of faith who educate and advocate in Maryland, DC, and Virginia for corrections systems that avoid unnecessarily punitive practices such as solitary confinement and that instead focus on rehabilitation and successful reentry.
IAHR envisions a societal system of corrections that
Is free of racism,
Is rehabilitative rather than punitive, and that...
- Honors the dignity of each human being,
- Helps people return to society well prepared to carry on with fulfilling and productive lives and
- Holds those in power in the system responsible for implementing these principles.
IAHR also envisions a society that minimizes the use of corrections by addressing the need for economic opportunity, education, and healthcare for all of its members.
IAHR contributes to the realization of our vision by bringing interfaith-based action to bear on prison reform in MD, DC (and the Federal Bureau of Prisons), and VA by:
- the end of all forms of brutality & torture in prisons and jails,
- limiting the use of solitary confinement to 15 consecutive days and working toward its elimination,
- the development of rehabilitative alternatives to the current system of mass incarceration and
- improvement of education, medical care, and mental health services for those incarcerated,
Providing supportive correspondents as well as legal and other services to those who are incarcerated and
Educating the general population on prison reform.
IAHR has had a major legislative success in Maryland and two partial successes in Virginia.
In Maryland, the General Assembly passed HB67/SB977 without opposition. The bill mandates the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) to provide transitional services to those in solitary confinement six months prior to their release. Each year, DPSCS released 250 to 300 people to the community directly from solitary confinement, which is a threat to public safety. The bill now goes to Governor Hogan and we are hopeful that he will sign it.
In Virginia, IAHR saw its bill to limit solitary confinement to 15 days within a 60-day period pass the Senate and make it to the House Public Safety Committee. The House decided not to kill the bill. Rather it changed the bill to set up a commission to study solitary and report back by December 1, 2022.
Also in Virginia, IAHR wrote a bill to prohibit the use of attack dogs in Virginia Prisons. Delegate Alfonso Lopez sponsored the bill. The bill did not make it out of the House Public Safety Committee. Instead, it was tabled and the Committee agreed to revisit the legislation in the 2023 session. For more details about our legislation in Maryland and Virginia,
please click here
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture has produced a new film in time for Torture Awareness Month this June entitled Torture in Our Name. In this compelling 35-minute documentary for faith audiences, filmmaker Matthew Gossage showcases the tenacity and resilience of people who have faced the torture of solitary confinement first-hand and are working to end it once and for all. The film traces the stories of campaigns in Louisiana, New Jersey, and New York in which survivors of solitary and their allies have mounted successful legislative campaigns in their respective states, with New Jersey and New York being the first two states in the nation to legislate bans on long-term isolated confinement.
Interfaith Action for Human Rights (IAHR) launched its first pen pal program in 2017 to keep DC residents connected to their communities while serving time in federal prisons around the country. Since then, we’ve connected over 250 inmates and local volunteers who exchange letters at least once a month.
Joining our program is an opportunity to:
- Build a new friendship
- Stay connected to your community
- Learn more about prison conditions in Maryland
- Share your story to inform our work on prison reform.
Interested? We’d love to hear from you! Send us a letter to introduce yourself to our pen pal coordinator who is helping organize the Maryland Project.
We ask our pen pals to write at least once a month for a year. Most of our pen pals have been writing to their correspondent for more than a year. Most have developed very good relations with their pen pal and have learned a lot about the person, the operations of the Bureau of Prisons, and the criminal justice system.
We ask everyone interested in becoming a pen pal to attend an online orientation that lasts about an hour. If you are interested, please contact our penpal coordinator at [email protected] or write to PO Box 55802, Washington, DC 20040
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