Interfaith Action for Human Rights Annual Reports
The text of recently received Annual Reports are below, with the most recently received at the top and older reports below. To jump to a particular report, simply click the year listed below.
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No report received.
Over this past year, IAHR’s has continued to build its visibility and impact through an extensive set of activities and initiatives. Our professional staff, dedicated volunteers and generous contributors have made all of this possible – and laid the foundation for even greater accomplishments in the coming years.
Legislation is a critical part of our effort.
- Bills we supported in Maryland that were successful in 2019 include a ban on solitary for juveniles, a ban on involuntary medical isolation for women who are pregnant or recuperating from pregnancy, and provision of medical treatment to incarcerated persons with addictions.
- Virginia passed a reporting requirement we sponsored this year on the extent and nature of solitary confinement in its prisons. As our experience in Maryland shows, having public information on solitary confinement in Virginia will be critical in arguing for future reform legislation.
- We are now focused on passing a reporting bill in the District. The reports will provide powerful evidence for our penal reform activity and that of our DC allies. IAHR is also part of a coalition seeking reform of parole practices in the District
Our efforts to provide Individual Support to those suffering from solitary confinement are another focus for IAHR.
- Our Pen Pal Program continues to grow. This program helps to relieve the isolation of prisoners from DC incarcerated hundreds or thousands of miles from home in the federal penal system. Even if they are not in solitary confinement, these persons are isolated – from friends and family, often for years on end. We now have 135 pen pals corresponding with 145 incarcerated persons. They each offer a friendly voice from back home through their on-going personal correspondence. A separate pen pal program serves Virginia.
- IAHR regularly receives personal appeals for help from those held in solitary confinement. Just an inquiry from us to prison administration can produce better conditions for the prisoner.
Public Awareness of our issues is the foundation for all our progress. Our best ally is a compassionate electorate that is well informed on the conditions of incarceration.
- Our voice has been heard widely in area media. This includes newspapers such as the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post and broadcast stations including WTKR in Norfolk.
- IAHR also conducts public Forums on Solitary Confinement that share our message with hundreds of attendees. Forums in 2018 and 2019 have included those held in Baltimore, Frederick and Richmond.
- This year, IAHR produced Reflecting on the Use of Solitary Confinement – a compelling video that spells out the imperative of ending solitary confinement. I hope you will view it and share it!
- Our website, https://www.interfaithactionhr.org/, and blog have become an increasingly rich source for all those who care about justice for our incarcerated brothers and sisters.
Interfaith Action for Human Rights (IAHR) is a non-profit Mid-Atlantic interfaith human rights organization that works in coalition with 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. IAHR works in Maryland, DC and Virginia.
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.
IAHR’s work in Maryland and Virginia is to improve conditions of confinement, especially to curtail the human rights abuses of solitary confinement. IAHR has developed and maintains a prison pen pal program for District of Columbia incarcerated residents and supports initiatives tor ending bigotry, especially religious bigotry, in all three jurisdictions.
People participate by attending briefings by IAHR and meetings of the Maryland Prisoners’ Rights Coalition and the Virginia Coalition against Solitary Confinement; by meeting with officials in Corrections and with legislators, by making calls, sending emails, by participating in Advocacy Day in Annapolis to limit Solitary; by becoming a pen pal. IAHR has a mailing list of 3,000 in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, with a few supporters as far away as California and New York. All are welcome.
Engaging Friends: IAHR has Friends on the board of directors (Stony Run Friends Meeting and Annapolis Friends Meeting). Friends are co-founders of IAHR and provide current board leadership. This past year IAHR worked with Friends from Patapsco, Homewood, Stony Run, Annapolis and Frederick Friends Meetings. IAHR participates in BYM Networking Day.
Maryland: IAHR’s main bill designed to limit the abusive use of solitary confinement/restrictive housing failed to pass this year. There was strong support from the public and a wide range of advocacy groups including one we helped to form, the Maryland Prisoners’ Rights Coalition (MPRC). Forty volunteers from around the state and representing a variety of faiths participated in Advocacy Day in Annapolis. We were basically outfoxed by leaders of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) who had a personal connection with one of the key committee chairs. We have a year-long strategy going forward to counter this problem in 2019, starting with a forum on solitary June 7 in a Baltimore synagogue. We will look to BYM to help put out a call for volunteers as we go forward.
IAHR works in collaboration with these same advocacy groups - Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform, Out for Justice, MPRC, NAMI Maryland, The ACLU Maryland, Disability Rights Maryland, NARAL ProChoice Maryland, as well as other faith groups, churches and synagogues.
In Maryland IAHR supported legislation to guarantee sufficient sanitary supplies for women in prison and jails and assure a written policy about pregnancy, provide for an educational assessment for individuals entering prison. We, along with our colleagues, were able to quash most but not all the bad aspects of an omnibus criminal justice bill. IAHR was able to secure month long bus passes for women leaving prison who were returning to the Baltimore area.
IAHR hosted a forum in Baltimore at Chizuk Amuno Congregation on conditions for women in prison and the issues that they face when they leave prison. More than fifty people attended.
IAHR participated in a press conference with Disability Rights Maryland and the ACLU upon the release of the DRM report of abuses of the disabled in solitary at North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland, and is following up with public forums highlighting those abuses. The first of those forums took place on June 7 at Beth Am Synagogue in Baltimore, again, with more than fifty in attendance.
IAHR made presentations on solitary confinement to faith groups, largely in the Baltimore area.
IAHR board members have visited with incarcerated men and women in area prisons and met with Corrections officials who are leading reforms in Maryland on a local level.
District of Columbia: IAHR Executive Director Rabbi Feinberg initiated a new prison pen pal program using guidelines from Solitary Watch. More than 100 volunteers have agreed to write once a month for a year to DC residents who are incarcerated in federal prisons around the country. The Rabbi has held five orientations for new pen pals as well as a get together for pen pals to ask questions and share information about their experiences.
IAHR participated in the Spread Hummus, not Hate campaign in DC as part of the speakers for that campaign. Additionally, Rabbi Feinberg helped plan and participated in an Iman-Jewish Summit held in Northern Virginia in December, 2017.
Virginia: In Virginia, IAHR works in collaboration with the ACLU-VA, Virginia-CURE, NAMI-VA, Virginia Council of Churches, and the Catholic Conference. The Coalition is called the Virginia Coalition against Solitary Confinement.
While efforts to present legislation on solitary did not bear fruit this past year, tremendous work has gone into preparations for next year. One IAHR board member corresponds with more than 100 men incarcerated in solitary at Red Onion and Wallens Ridge. Members of the Virginia coalition have met with Virginia Corrections and with the Lt. Governor of the State as well as engaged the media (the Washington Post and the Richmond Times Dispatch) in coverage of the plight of some of the incarcerated. IAHR works closely with Delegate Patrick Hope in preparation for drafting legislation for next year’s session.
Specific efforts to bring relief to a few selected individuals in solitary were successful in one area. An individual who was in solitary with no end in sight was released to general population after intervention by the ACLU, IAHR and a change.org petition.
In Summary: We at IAHR have learned that it takes on average three years in Maryland to get a bill passed. The shift in the legislature in Virginia has for the first time opened a door to legislation there to reform our penal system. We are in this for the long haul, having worked for several years, first to learn what conditions are and then to educate and engage the public and legislators and the media.
The Board of IAHR thanks BYM for its financial support and will look to BYM to promote our call for volunteers, as well. As Quakers were responsible initially in this country for starting the use of solitary confinement in the 1700s, the Quaker members of IAHR feel an especially keen responsibility now to end this abusive practice.