In 1972, the Supreme Court outlawed state and federal death penalty laws in the Furman v. Georgia decision. However the federal government drafted new laws to get capital punishment reinstated in 1988. Still, no federal executions took place until 2001 with the last one carried out in 2003.
Now Attorney General Barr has ordered the first federal executions in 16 years.
As Catholics we are called to be a people of life. The death penalty violates our Catholic Social Teaching that centers on the inherent dignity of all human life and is therefore contradictory to our respect for human life. This is not even mentioning the disproportionate affect of the death penalty on people of color, those living in poverty, or those with severe mental illness.
The death penalty is not effective in deterring or stopping future crime and costs taxpayers almost ten times more that non-capital cases. Also despite the system's best efforts for justice it is not 100% accurate and exonerations are proof that there is a chance of innocent life being threatened by a sentence to death.
The Catholic Mobilizing Network is an organization dedicated to ending the death penalty. Follow the link to their Take Action webpage for easy ways you can get involved in the campaign to end capital punishment.
Returning citizens constantly face barriers to employment because of their criminal records despite being qualified and eager to work. Last June Pennsylvania passed the Clean Slate Act, the first of its kind, which would make it easier for people to find work by sealing the nonviolent records of those who had remained crime-free for at least 10 years.
This act, overwhelmingly supported by both sides of the political aisle, has given thousands of Pennsylvanians their deserved second chance and successfully lowered unemployment and helped the state economy. A year later, a similar act has been introduced to Congress.
The Federal Clean Slate Act, H.R. 2348 would seal any records of arrests without convictions so innocent people are not punished. It would also seal records of nonviolent marijuana charges helping to address the wrongs of racially biased drug enforcement policies that perpetuate a cycle of poverty in African American and Latino communities.
Contact your member of Congress or your state’s elected officials today and ask them to support the Clean Slate Act so that more Americans will have the opportunity to live productive and meaningful lives and support themselves. Find a sample letter here. Find out who your representative is here.
Catholic Mobilizing Network is a national organization devoted to ending the death penalty and promoting restorative justice. They have hundreds of resources to reach the spiritual and practical needs of these issues. Their resource guide provides books suggestions, films, small group discussion guides, podcasts, retreat information, and more! Check them out at @cmnendthedeathpenalty or online at catholicsmobilizing.org
The Texas legislature is considering a bill which would allow parole for individuals after 20 years of incarceration who were charged as minors for capital crimes. We believe support from the bishops of Texas would help get the bill passed. Our call to action is to contact as many Texas bishops as possible to help support the passage of the legislation.
An example of the need for this reform has been shared with us by the Reverend Thomas Wilhelm, I.V.Dei. Father Wilhelm has been in contact with someone in the Texas Prison System since 2001. The individual took a man’s life 25 years ago. He was under 18 at the time and was associated with a group of juveniles. He is now in his mid-forties, has converted to Catholicism, earned an Associate’s degree and, if paroled under the new law, could become a productive citizen. There are over 2,000 prisoners in Texas prisons in the same situation. Father’s experience shows that with confession and contrition redemption is possible and should be what we, as Catholics, practice.
We are asking you to send letters to the bishops asking for their support. The downloads below will provide you with a draft letter to the bishops, a database of the Texas Bishops, and a file that contains labels of the bishops that could be run off on Avery 5260 labels (or you can just write them out!). Please send as many letters as you can to support these efforts. If you only have time for only one letter, send it to Cardinal DiNardo, the leader of the Texas bishops.
We are hoping that if the bishops get these letters from concerned Catholic citizens outside of their home state it might push them to consider action in this effort. The sooner we send the letters the better.
As of January 8, 2019, Florida restored the right to vote to felons convicted of certain crimes. This historic amendment to the state constitution follows the November vote to restore the rights that affected 1.5 million former felons, nearly 10% of the state's adult population and 20% of the adult African-American voter population.
Reinstating voting rights to former felons is an important step towards removing the stigma for these people and valuing their perspective as a person who has been through the criminal justice system. Furthermore, it begins to dismantle one piece of systemic racism. By restoring their ability to vote and political voice we are one step closer to solutions for the systemic issue of mass incarceration. Click here to read more.
I'm Free is a Philadelphia non-profit that helps and empowers incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women to make a positive difference in their lives and in the world.
Women leaving jail or prison often have no possessions when they are released. Help make the transition easier by donating items from the I'm Free wishlist. They are looking for a variety of bath & beauty items, clothing, arts & crafts supplies, household items, and more. Check out their website and follow the "It Takes a Village" tab to see their donation list.
Old tech around the house? Wondering what to do with old phones? Donate them! PAR Recycle Works is a local nonprofit that provides transitional employment to people returning to the community from prison through an electronics recycling service.
Create a drive at your school and have a competition among classes! Ask your school if the winning class can have a dress-down day or some other incentive of your choice. You get to recycle, help provide transitional employment, and enjoy some friendly competition, it's a win-win-win!
Click here to learn more about PAR Recycle Works.