Rabbi David Saperstein Attends Oval Office Ceremony: Reform Jewish Movement Welcomes President Bush's Signing of the Prison Rape Reduction Act
Saperstein: We commend the President for his support of this bill, which will not only raise the standards of justice in America's prisons but also decrease crime in our communities.
Contact:Alexis Rice or David Segal 202-387-2800
WASHINGTON, September 4, 2003 - This morning at a small ceremony at the White House, President Bush signed into law the Prison Rape Reduction Act. Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, which was a key supporter of the legislation and the only representative of a national religious organization in attendance, issued the following statement:
Enactment of the Prison Rape Reduction Act, which the President signed today, is a significant step toward keeping our prison system free of rape and improving the brutal and inhumane conditions in too many of our prisons. More than 13% of the 2 million prisoners in the U.S. will experience sexual assault during their prison term. In addition to requiring the Department of Justice to collect and monitor statistics on prison rape, this bill provides funding for prison rape prevention programs in federal, state, and local prisons, and it creates a federal commission to monitor the impact of the legislation. We commend the President for his support of this bill, which will not only raise the standards of justice in America's prisons but also decrease crime in our communities.
The moral voice of our tradition imposes upon us the obligation to uphold the dignity of all people, to recognize the potential in all for redemption, and to protect the most vulnerable, including, specifically, those serving prison sentences. That this includes the prisoner is clearly reflected in the Bible in two separate places where it pronounces a prohibition on raping those captured in war (imprisonment for criminal activity was not known in the ancient Jewish world), both women (Deuteronomy 21:10-16) and men (Deuteronomy 23:16-17).
Therefore, we commend the President and Congress for taking action to uphold the dignity of the prison population and to defend their rights to personal safety. We stand with the President in sending the message that prison officials must no longer be allowed to look the other way on the issue of prison rape, and that we have an obligation, both as Jews and as Americans, to provide humane confinement to all prisoners.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .