Board of Trustees
New York, New York
Crime must be brought under control within the framework of a free and moral society, operating under the rule of law. We reaffirm the Biblical concept that the criminal is a human being, capable of reshaping his life. "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live." (Ezekiel 33:11) Rather than inflicting increasingly harsh punishment and curtailing civil liberties, we should treat the causes of crime and disorder and reject proposals which ignore those causes by emphasis upon vengeful or unconstitutional means.
Therefore, we urge support of the following:
- Constructive measures designed to eradicate those factors that furnish the breeding ground of crime as recommended by the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration, which found that:
"...crime flourishes where the conditions of life are the worst, and that therefore the foundation of a national strategy against crime is an unremitting national effort for social justice. Reducing poverty, discrimination, ignorance, disease and urban blight, and the anger, cynicism or despair those conditions can inspire, is one great step toward reducing crime."
- Education and legislation at the national, state and local levels that would limit and control the sale and use of firearms, easy access to which is a major factor in crimes and violence. We oppose efforts of "gun lobbies" that repeatedly have thwarted the passage of effective legislation, and we pledge our support to those who are working for responsible control of this deadly traffic.
- Constructive improvement of law enforcement through:
- Reforms of police departments and agencies, including adequate salaries and proper working conditions for policemen, modern training academies, institution of sound administration and modernization of police equipment.
- Improved police-community relations, both by the exchange of information and ideas about police and community problems, and by institution of adequate provisions for review of civilian complaints—all designed to lead to confidence and trust by police and community in the integrity of each other.
- Measures to modernize and humanize correctional procedures and institutions, with particular emphasis on alternatives to imprisonment, such as greater use of probation, community supervision and work furlough programs within the community.
- We need to know much more about the serious moral and social issues which develop out of the special legal status of juveniles, with reference to what we characterize as delinquent behavior. The constitutional rights and civil liberties of juveniles, standards of juvenile institutions which incarcerate children for delinquent behavior, alternatives to incarceration of juveniles, special problems arising by reason of adult treatment of criminal offenders who are between the juvenile period as classified by many state laws and age 21, are some of the areas of our religious and social concern.
We direct our Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism to engage in serious study of these related problems pertaining to American youth.
- Legislation of the field of civil liberties which will assure the continued vitality of civil liberties and constitutional safeguards without which the values of a just society can be diminished and which should enhance and be supportive of those values by affording protection rather than restriction of constitutional rights. Therefore:
- We oppose legislation that would nullify or limit assurances of the rights to counsel, open the door to use of evidence obtained by illegal means or unreasonable searches and seizures, weaken protection against self-incrimination and impair safeguards in the use of confessions.
- We oppose wiretapping, eavesdropping and other similar invasions of privacy by government agencies.