Wednesday, July 15, 2015

          Bringing in the Sabbath at San Quentin

          Rising 2L and Hastings Jewish Law Students Association President Jacob Erez reports.
          Sample alt tag.
          San Quentin State Prison

          My Friday night Shabbat dinners usually consist of good food, the traditional cup of wine (Kiddush), and the company of family and friends. However, this past Shabbat was a bit different.

          It was still on a Friday night, and I did have three friends with me, but the food we ate was only bread, we drank grape juice instead of wine, there wasn't much singing, and I was in a room with 22 inmates at the San Quentin state prison.

          We traveled to SQ Friday afternoon to bring some joy, some words of Torah, and a legal presentation about State v. Chui to the inmates. I must admit I was nervous going in, and going through the extensive security check didn't help, but all my anxiety dissipated once we sat down and I realized that the inmates were excited to have us there.

          The visit was the initiative of the Hastings Jewish Law Students Association (HJLSA). Some of us work in criminal law, some of us were just curious, but all of us came out with a different perspective on the inmates.

          The crimes they were convicted of may not be easy to stomach. But today is after the fact. In many cases, 20 or 30 years after the fact. Incidentally, President Obama gave a speech this week at the NAACP’s annual convention discussing the US criminal justice system and those incarcerated, he is quoted as saying: "they are also Americans [the prisoners], and we have to make sure that as they do their time that we are increasing the possibility that they can turn their lives around…. Justice and redemption go hand in hand.” While many of the inmates we met were what they called "lifers," the principle still applies, they had seemed to turn their lives around while being incarcerated; they were kind and sincere, and they maintained a positive conviction. Speaking to these inmates exposed us to the humanity that remained.

          Being imprisoned does not negate the person nor should it deny someone from becoming better than the person they were. Despite what these inmates have done, they are different now, and defining them based on their past indiscretions is an injustice to who they are now. Friday night at SQ was definitely one of my most eye-opening Shabbat dinners, even without the wine.

          - Jacob Erez

          Rising 2L and HJLSA Vice President Genna Promnick also contributed to this report. 

          Go to News Archive

          Share this Story

          Share via Facebook
          Share via TwitterShare via EmailPrint Friendly Version

          Other Recent Stories/ RSS

          Friday, September 22, 2017

          2L Victor Escobar, Who Once Faced Deportation, Seeks To Help Undocumented Immigrants

          After being locked up in immigration detention, the former DACA recipient wants to advocate for others.
          Tuesday, September 19, 2017

          3L Griffin Estes advocates for the marginalized people of San Francisco

          The Managing Director of the Brennan Award-winning Hastings Homeless Legal Services discusses the critical skills needed to pursue a career in public interest and social justice.
          Monday, September 18, 2017

          Student Group Champions Reproductive Justice

          Members of the UC Hastings chapter of If/When/How are making a difference through lobbying, fundraising and career development.
          Friday, September 15, 2017

          The Slants - Live from UC Hastings

          2L Jeremy Chan, president of APALSA, reflects on how the student organization partnered with SFIPLA to bring the headline-making band to UC Hastings to perform and discuss their U.S. Supreme Court victory.
          Wednesday, September 13, 2017

          Community Connections

          La Raza Law Students Association works for diversity in the classroom and the courtroom.
          Go to News Archive