Saperstein: “These numbers, likely underreported, serve as an alarming reminder of the scourge of prison rape and the immediate need for preventative programs, treatment, and investigation.”
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WASHINGTON, D.C., June 25, 2009 – In response to the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission Report issued last week, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
We commend the report issued by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission that makes clear that prison rape remains a widespread problem that demands immediate and swift action. The Commission estimates that nearly 60,500 prisoners experienced sexual abuse one or more times in State and Federal facilities in 2007. Among the most disturbing statistics in the report is that, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 16.8 per 1,000 juveniles held in adult facilities experienced sexual abuse, a rate five times greater than adults. These numbers, likely underreported, serve as an alarming reminder of the scourge of prison rape and the immediate need for preventative programs, treatment, and investigation.
The Religious Action Center helped draft the Prison Rape Elimination Act and worked towards its passage in 2003 in order to shine light upon this crisis across the country. All people, including those serving prison sentences, are created in God’s image and are deserving of being treated with dignity and respect, recognizing the potential in all for redemption.
We call upon the Department of Justice to work with State and Federal detention facilities to expediently enact the standards set forth by the Commission. Rape cannot be condoned as a part of prison sentences. When prison authorities routinely turn a blind eye, it violates both the ban on cruel and unusual punishment and the common decency of our nation. We will actively support the important work done by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission to ensure the rights of the prison population to physical safety.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis.