Exhibit: Women Who Dared
BiographiesMultimediaBy CityAbout WWD Jewish Gender Activism
What She Said
  Rebecca Young
  Prisoners' Rights Lawyer
  Boston WWD Event 2002
  Born in 1964
  Created Rapid Response to Brutality Project to deter guard-on-prisoner violence
Biography  up to top

Rebecca Young was born in 1964 and raised in New York City, the only child of two artists. Although her family was not observant, she developed a strong Jewish identity as a child. Her parents divorced when she was seven, and Rebecca and her mother struggled with poverty, an experience which made Rebecca sensitive to the challenges faced by poor people. When Rebecca was thirteen, her mother died and Rebecca moved to Virginia to live with a cousin.

Soon after her mother's death, Rebecca's interest in prisoners' rights was sparked by a made-for-television movie about death row inmate Caryl Chessman. Rebecca continued to develop her commitment to prisoners' rights while an undergraduate at Harvard, volunteering in Massachusetts prisons. After graduation, Rebecca remained involved in this field, working for a prison reform group, where she learned about lobbying and legal research. She served as the first executive director of Citizens for Juvenile Justice (CJJ), an organization that works to improve the juvenile justice system to benefit children, their families, and the community. Her legislative advocacy work with CJJ spurred Rebecca to return to law school; she graduated from Boston College Law School in 2001. Rebecca currently works as a Soros Justice Postgraduate Fellow at Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, implementing the Rapid Response to Brutality Project that she designed. This project aims to deter the frequent victimization of prisoners by correctional staff through monitoring brutality, documenting reported assaults quickly, and doing follow-up advocacy to help prisoners get medical treatment. Although the project is in its early stages, Rebecca has already been rewarded with meaningful connections with her clients and colleagues. She feels lucky to have found her calling in this work.

In addition to her deep commitment to prisoners' rights, Rebecca has been active in causes such as women's rights, anti-poverty, and anti-apartheid. She also has a long-standing involvement in anti-death penalty activism, serving as a board member of Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty for 12 years. Rebecca views her activism as influenced by her mother's willingness to stand up for what she believed in, her experiences of poverty as a child, and Jewish values of tikkun olam (repairing the world).

What She Said  up to top
I definitely do [see my activism as related to Jewish values] although I didn't start doing the work I do because I made some connection in my mind ...More 
I think my political sensibilities come mostly from my mother, who was very liberal. I remember being a little kid and her telling me stories about FDR ...More 
And I remember as a kid certainly absolutely thinking of myself as a feminist and feeling that the women's movement was really important to me ...More 
The original story of how I got interested in this stuff is that when I was 13 years old, a few months after my mother had died, I saw this made-for-TV movie called ¿Kill Me If You Can¿ and it was based on the case of Caryl Chessman ...More 
I like to think - and there's no way to measure it - but I like to think that the working relationships that I have with my clients are of some value ...More 
At times in my life, I've had jobs where the work that I was doing didn't fit 100% with what I believed in, which I found very troubling ...More 
I think one of my frustrations... I'm learning how limited what someone can do in this position - how many limits there are in what someone can do, even if you're a prisoners' rights lawyer and you do this full-time, more than full-time ...More 
Definitely the best part is the connections that I've made with my clients... All of the prisoners I meet with are in segregation, meaning they are very isolated from other prisoners ...More 
I feel like prisoners are understandably a group of folks that not that many people have at the top of their agenda but I really view the work that I do as human rights work ...More 
Probably the most important thing is to figure out what the issue is that really moves you and that you're passionate about. And I think sort of by chance for me that I wound up seeing some movie ...More 
Multimedia  up to top
Photographs Photographs
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How to Cite This Page
For a bibliography: Jewish Women's Archive. "JWA - Women Who Dared - Biography Rebecca Young." <http://jwa.org/exhibits/wwd/jsp/bio.jsp?personID=pryoung>.

For a footnote: Jewish Women's Archive, "JWA - Women Who Dared - Biography Rebecca Young," <http://jwa.org/exhibits/wwd/jsp/bio.jsp?personID=pryoung>.