October 10 marks the 17th World Day Against the Death Penalty. Will you stand up for the dignity of every human being and join the Ignatian network in calling for an end to the death penalty?
In his address to the United States Congress in 2015, Pope Francis declared that “conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.”
The implication of the Pope addressing these words to the US Congress should not be lost on us. In 2018, 25 individuals were executed in the United States trailing only China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Iraq, and Egypt. In July 2019, after a 16-year hiatus, the Trump Administration announced that it would resume executions at the federal level. Five federal executions have been scheduled—the first for December 9th 2019.
Beyond denying the possibility of rehabilitation and redemption, the use of the death penalty has been marred by racial bias, excessive costs, and human error. “Since 1973, more than 160 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence,” according to reporting by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights and the Death Penalty Information Center.
In the US, 21 states have formally abolished the death penalty, while an additional four have placed a moratorium on executions, most recently California, home to the largest death row in the country. Advocates around the country continue to pursue legal action at all levels against the practice of the death penalty. At the federal level, members of Congress have introduced death penalty repeal legislation.