Organizational Background

Formerly known as Washington Region Religious Campaign Against Torture (WRRCAT), the organization was established in 2006 in response to an urgent need to oppose U.S. state-sponsored torture. It started by organizing a weekly anti-torture vigil opposite the Vice-President's home. WRRCAT was launched at a public meeting with over 250 people in attendance and 60 different congregations represented.  At the same time, WRRCAT affiliated with the Mid-Atlantic branch of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT).

Over time, the group became dormant, and in 2011, NRCAT asked Suzanne O'Hatnick, (ex-chairperson) to revive the group. Suzanne formed a steering committee with people who represented Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths. The reconstituted group adopted the issues that NRCAT supported e.g., closing Guantanamo Bay, accountability for those who committed acts of torture, reducing prolonged isolation in American prisons, and countering anti-Muslim bigotry.

In 2013, seeking to emphasize the positive, WRRCAT changed its name to Interfaith Action for Human Rights (IAHR). In December 2014, IAHR formally incorporated, and in 2015, the IRS granted IAHR 501(c) (3) status.

In July 2015, a board of 11 directors was formed, and Rabbi Charles M. Feinberg, who had been on the steering committee, was appointed executive director. In 2016, the board decided to focus on ending prolonged isolation in state prisons and countering anti-Muslim bigotry.

By 2017, the board recognized that IAHR could not focus on both countering anti-Muslim bigotry and the abuse of prolonged isolation. Since other organizations were engaged in countering anti-Muslim bigotry, the board decided to focus on ending the abuse of prolonged isolation in regional prisons and jails. By 2020, the mission expanded beyond conditions of confinement in regional prisons and jails. IAHR has also focused on other abuses of human rights and rehabilitative alternatives. Thus, IAHR works to stop the inhumane treatment of prisoners within Virginia, DC, and the Maryland Penal System, especially those held in prolonged isolation.

Since its inception, IAHR has been leading a movement to stop the widespread use of solitary as placing people in solitary stands out as a violation of human rights. The organization has played a pivotal role in generating public awareness, mainstream media attention, and informed policymaking, and significant milestones such as the reporting bill in 2016 and the youth solitary bill in 2019.