Rabbi Saperstein: "We reaffirm the biblical concept that the criminal is a human being, capable of reshaping his or her life."
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WASHINGTON, D.C., June 25, 2012 - In response to the Supreme Court's ruling that a mandatory minimum sentence of life without parole is unconstitutional for those under 18, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
"We are deeply encouraged by the Court's decision, which ruled that mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles are unconstitutional and should be considered to be 'cruel and unusual punishment' under the Eighth Amendment. When a child commits a crime - no matter how horrible - the sentence of life without parole says that the child's life is dead-ended and that he or she has no chance of redemption. The decisions handed down in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs will allow many more juveniles exactly that chance for rehabilitation.
The Court's approach today reflects the hope of redemption, central to Judaism and so many other religious faiths. And it reaffirms the lessons learned in Ezekiel 33:11: "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live."
We hope that this decision will guide our nation's leaders to address the contextual issues raised by this case. First, that in addressing crime we should treat not just the symptoms but the causes of crime and violence. Second, the premise of this decision is to be achieved, we must address the overarching problems of our criminal justice system: overcrowding, record-high incarceration rates, and high rates of recidivism. Our prisons must become centers of rehabilitation, not factories of harsh retribution, violence and criminal activity."