New Jersey Jewish News: Rabbis decry racism’s influence on youth incarceration rates

New Jersey Jewish News reports:

“It is our responsibility to be a voice for the voiceless, stand up for the downtrodden, and to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers,” said Rabbi Jesse Olitzky of Congregation Beth El in South Orange.

“If black and Latino youth are 25 times more likely to be incarcerated in our state than white youths, what we are saying is that by allowing these rates to continue, we are opening up an entryway for them to reoffend, and reoffend, and reoffend — rather than educating them and giving all of our youth, regardless of race or ethnicity, the opportunity to repent,” said Olitzky.

Olitzky joined in a Feb. 1 conference call on juvenile incarceration sponsored by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice...

“Black and white young people engage in similar offenses at about the same rates overall, but New Jersey’s black youth are disproportionately incarcerated in youth prisons,” said the institute’s president and CEO, Ryan Haygood, as he addressed the conference call. “What strikes me is these racial disparities don’t reflect actual participation in criminal behavior. People of all races commit crimes at about the same rate.”

Although Olitzky was the only rabbi to participate in the call, which included members of the Christian clergy and two state legislators, other Jewish religious leaders told NJJN they are equally alarmed at what they perceive as a severe injustice.

“It’s not that Jewish kids don’t get busted, but young people of color often get processed and treated differently,” said Rabbi David Levy of Temple Shalom in Succasunna. He said Jews “have a special responsibility based on our history. No person should be treated any less than another and right now, that is happening.”

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