This February, Rabbi Yosef Zaklos of Chabad of Downtown Boston will offer Crime and Consequence, a new six-session course by the acclaimed Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) exploring 3,000 years of Jewish perspective on conviction, sentencing, and criminal rehabilitation.
Beginning Wednesday, Feb. 20, at 8 a.m., at ADL New England Offices in Downtown Boston participants in the course will challenge their thinking, ponder the implications of ancient Talmudic wisdom for complex modern cases, and get to the heart of the most pressing injustices facing our criminal justice system today.
Each of the six sessions will have a special guest address. For the first session, the Hon. Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants of the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) of Massachusetts, will address the participants and join the discussion. Other Guests include: Judge Roanne Sragow, former U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins and Boston police Commissioner William Gross.
“DNA testing is proving that we’ve been convicting innocent people. How can we stand by and remain silent to these serious flaws in our criminal justice system?” asked Rabbi Zaklos, the local JLI Instructor. “Crime and Consequence is for people who care deeply about humanity, who are enraged at injustice, and who are fascinated by real-life catch-22 scenarios.”
The recent bipartisan bill, the “First Step Act,” has passed the Senate and was signed into law. Among other provisions, the bill gives prisoners new ways to earn early release, expands compassionate release for terminally ill prisoners, and will keep inmates closer to their families. The bill has brought the debate about criminal justice into sharp focus; Americans are discussing the value of tougher or smarter reforms, fairness of mandatory minimum sentencing as opposed to judicial discretion, and whether prison is at all effective in reforming criminals
“Participants in the course will uncover the humanity within all people—including criminals, question judicial practices that seem unethical and unfair, and explore effective crime deterrents,” Rabbi Zaklos said.
“Crime and Consequence” will tackle judicial reform from a Jewish perspective, addressing topics such as “What’s the purpose of prison: punishment, deterrence or rehabilitation?” “Should we consider testimonies given in exchange for a reduced sentence as reliable evidence?” and “Can criminals ever make amends, and if so, how?”
The course also boldly addresses society’s most serious sentencing questions: Is life-without-parole a justifiable penalty? May we sentence a person to death? When would these options be warranted? Is there a better way?
The course draws deeply on ancient Jewish sources, while using contemporary materials to give a modern context to the discussion. Students will discover that the Jewish approach to justice goes well beyond the reforms in the First Step Act.
The program has won early endorsements from distinguished law professors and criminal justice campaigners.
“It is a profound irony that the United States is a true beacon of democracy, freedom, and the rule of law while it imprisons more of its own citizenry than any other country,” wrote Professor Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, in his endorsement of the course. “Crime and Consequence . . . brings rigorous legal analysis, statistical data on incarceration and rehabilitation, and case studies into a uniquely profound dialogue with the values undergirding our entire political tradition.”
“Crime and Consequence” is accredited in many states (including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Florida) for attorneys and other law professionals to earn continuing education credits.
Like all JLI programs, this course is designed for people at all levels of knowledge, including those without any prior experience or background in Jewish learning. All JLI courses are open to the public, and attendees need not be affiliated with a particular synagogue, temple, or other house of worship.
This JLI course is presented in conjunction with Anti Definition League (ADL) New England.
Interested students may call 617-297-7282 or visit www.ChabadDB.org/crime for registration and for other course-related information.