- What’s the Point of Prison? Wednesday 16th January
Statistics suggests that some modern societies imprison people at a rate unparalleled. Why is this so? Why do we lock people up? What do we hope to achieve by doing so? We will contrast secular and Talmudic theories of criminal justice, with suggestions of how to ensure a more just justice system.
- Judaism and the Death Penalty, Wednesday 23rd January
Some crimes are irreversible. Everyone makes mistakes. Taken together, these two propositions suggest both the imperative and impediment for the death penalty and point to its central paradox. Can man have the authority to sentence another man to death? How should we respond to the most serious crimes?
- Standards of Evidence in the Talmud, Wednesday 30th January
Judges and juries must always be clear-sighted. How can we assess the truth of testimony? Does every criminal confession count, are some inadmissible? Can informants be credible? This lesson explores the concept of evidentiary standards in several overlapping areas of Talmudic and secular law.
- How Do Criminals Make Amends? Wednesday 6th February
Is the Criminal Justice system an expression of how society seeks restitution for crimes and rehabilitation for criminals? How can it be improved? Is the sentencing program rehabilitative? The extensive, systematic program of repentance laid out in the Talmud can be considered insights this process holds for present-day criminal rehabilitation.
- Re-acceptance and the Criminal Background Check, Wednesday 13th February
On Rosh Hashanah we say: All of your deeds are recorded in a book, the contemporary criminal justice system records does the same. Is it possible to find a balance between the needs of society, employers, and ex-offenders? We will explore contemporary situation, and read answers in the paradigm of Jewish law.
- Addressing Crime Before It Happens, Wednesday 20th February
The best way to improve the criminal justice system is by keeping people out of it. Judaism has long recognised the role of societal factors in the commission of crime: poverty and unemployment are significant, as are education, values, and personal character. What is the root of criminality and what preventative policy could we propose?