March 13, 2019

Contact: Max Rosenblum

LOS ANGELES — In response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s executive order to place a moratorium on the death penalty in California, Jewish Center for Justice Executive Director Rabbi Joel Thal Simonds released the following statement:

The Jewish Center for Justice welcomes today’s executive order by Governor Newsom to suspend the death penalty in California. This bold action on capital punishment is a substantial legal and moral step toward justice in a state currently home to the highest death row population in the country.

As a faith community advocating for equality under the law for all people, JCJ has been outspoken about the need to address critical flaws in our criminal justice system. The use of capital punishment has, for decades, disproportionately targeted people of color. Moreover, we know that approximately 1 in 10 death row inmates are wrongly accused; the stories of the innocent who have been exonerated are heartbreaking.

The Talmud teaches that when we save a life, it is as if we have saved the entire world. Nothing better illustrates this precept than the individuals who have been exonerated – or whose sentences have been commuted – and seized this second chance as an opportunity to educate, advocate and bring peace to their communities.

As one of a select group of faith organizations with whom Governor Newsom met as he considered this historic action, we know the governor did not take this step lightly. We applaud Governor Newsom for his moral leadership and look forward to working with him to restore faith in our flawed justice system.

The Jewish Center for Justice is a social justice platform for current and future Jewish leaders providing education, leadership development and advocacy opportunities. Led by Executive Director Rabbi Joel Thal Simonds, JCJ empowers leaders to affect change on the ground in their communities and in society as whole.