Against Solitary Confinement: Jonah's Redemption and Our Need for Mercy

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Schlanger, Margo
Biblical interpretation; Prisoners; Jonah; Solitary confinement; Prisons; Prison conditions; Bible; Isolation; Law Enforcement and Corrections; Religion Law
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Author’s Note: This essay is adapted from one I wrote in September 2013 to give as a d’var Torah for Yom Kippur, and published in Tablet, an online Jewish magazine. Mostly, I’ve added footnotes. As a law professor, I am far more expert at constitutional than biblical exegesis. But perhaps because the Bible and the Constitution share their status as instrumental and highly authoritative documents, my own subjective experience of developing a reading or critique of both has turned out to be remarkably similar. Both exercises require close textual reading and wide-ranging investigation of its extant interpretations; both are informed by a normative vision. So although I am no Biblicist, I have ventured into biblical interpretation with some sense of familiarity—and particularly so when the normative issue that draws me to the project is a familiar one. In this essay, I set out the results of one such venture.