Why our Jewish and Christian faiths demand criminal justice reform

(RNS) A common theme invoked in both the Jewish holiday of Passover and the Christian holiday of Easter is the portrayal of suffering under harsh and unfair punishment.

For Jews it was enslavement in Egypt; for Christians it was the Crucifixion of Jesus. On these holy days, we are confronted with powerful warnings against cruel and unusual treatment with the reminder that our faith traditions deeply value human dignity, mercy and redemption.

These holidays remind us that we have an auspicious opportunity to turn our attention to our country’s own systems of punishment and justice. With more than 2 million people behind bars, the United States has around 5 percent of the world’s total population, but nearly 25 percent of its prisoners.

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