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Position of the Reform Movement on the Death Penalty

Since 1959, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) have formally opposed the death penalty.

The CCAR resolved in 1979 that "both in concept and in practice, Jewish tradition found capital punishment repugnant" and there is no persuasive evidence "that capital punishment serves as a deterrent to crime."

The URJ notes that: "We believe that there is no crime for which the taking of human life by society is justified, and that it is the obligation of society to evolve other methods in dealing with crime. We appeal to our congregants and to our co-religionists and to all who cherish God's mercy and love to join in efforts to eliminate this practice [of capital punishment] which lies as a stain upon civilization and our religious conscience."

In December 1999, at the 65th biennial convention, the URJ passed a resolution entitled Race and the United States Criminal Justice System, which among other things, committed the Reform Jewish Movement to continue its efforts in opposition to the death penalty and to determine whether the "disparate treatment of those sentenced to death is attributable to the race or ethnicity of the defendants or the victims and act to eliminate the disparities, where they exist."

In regards to matters of legal representation, the URJ calls for reforming the existing system to "ensure that all those accused of capital offenses are afforded competent counsel and that they have adequate funding to ensure that their defenses are fully investigated."