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Social Justice and Capital Punishment

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on 13 October 2013

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Transcript of Social Justice and Capital Punishment

Catholic Social Teaching on Capital Punishment
"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
Social Justice and Capital Punishment
What is it?
Capital Punishment, or the death penalty, is a legal process where a person is put to death by the state as a punishment for a crime.

Types of Capital Punishment: electrocution, lethal gas, hanging, firing squad, and lethal injection
The death penalty was established in the eighteenth century B.C.
1608: capital punishment was introduced to the Americas when Captain George Kendall was executed.
1632: Jane Champion became the first women executed in the new colonies
Early 1800s: Many states reduced their number of capital punishment crimes and built state penitentiaries
1890: William Kemmler becomes first person executed by electrocution
1907-1917: nine states abolish the death penalty for all crimes or strictly limit it.
1924: the use of cyanide gas introduced as an execution method
1930s: executions reach the highest levels in American History average 167 per year
1948: The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaiming a "right to life"
June 1972: Furman vs. Georgia - Supreme Court effectively voids 40 death penalty statutes and suspends the death penalty
1976: Gregg vs. Georgia - death penalty reinstated.
December 7, 1982: Charles Brooks becomes the first person executed by lethal injection
1984: Velma Barfield becomes the first woman executed since reinstatement of the death penalty
1986: Executions of insane persons banned
1988: Thompson vs. Oklahoma - offenders 15 and younger at the time of their crimes are considered unconstitutional
1994: President Clinton signs the violent crime control and Law Enforcement Act expanding the federal death penalty
January 1999: Pope John Paul II visits St. Louis, Missouri, and calls for an end to the death penalty
Church members are encouraged to work for the abolition of the death penalty in those states and nations that still practice this form of punishment.
"The new evangelization calls for followers of Christ who are unconditionally pro-life: who will proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life in every situation. A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. . . . I renew the appeal I made . . . for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary."
—Pope John Paul II
Papal Mass, St. Louis, Missouri, January 27, 1999
"While the Old Testament includes some passages about taking the life of one who kills, the Old Testament and the teaching of Christ in the New Testament call us to protect life, practice mercy, and reject vengeance."
—USCCB, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death

"No matter how heinous the crime, if society can protect itself without ending a human life, it should do so."
—USCCB, A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death
For Capital Punishment
The death penalty prevents future murders; society has always used punishment to discourage would-be criminals from unlawed actions
Society has an interest in preventing murder - it should use the strongest form of punishment available to deter murder, and that is the death penalty
If murderers are sentenced to death and executed, potential murderers will think twice before killing for fear of losing their own life
Keeping a criminal in prison with a doctor and 3 meals a day is a waste of tax dollars
It is the only way to protect innocent people
From a teenager's viewpoint, the death penalty provides justice and closure for the victim's family
"I am convinced that the death penalty can be an effective deterrent against specific crimes" -Richard M. Nixon (March 10, 1973)
Against Capital Punishment
You can't fight fire with fire: the death penalty is the easiest escape route for criminals, murder will not deter murder because dying is a simple escape
"Capital punishment cannot be justified on the basis of its deterrent effect." -Justice Marshall, US Supreme Court, Furman vs. Georgia (1972)
Cruel, unusual punishment: this act is very inhumane. An eye for an eye gets us nowhere.
Innocent people who did not commit the crime could be killed by the death sentence
Other Religions Against the Death Penalty: Hinduism and Buddhism
Gandhi (Hindu) said, "An eye for an eye ends up making the whole world blind!"
Hinduism - there is no official line against capital punishment, however, Hinduism opposes killing, violence, and revenge.
Buddhism - inhumane treatment of an offender does not solve their misdeeds or those of humanity in general

Conclusion and Solutions
Capital punishment is practiced in most societies: 58 countries allow it and 97 countries abolish it
People form their opinion on capital punishment by religious, ethical, and philosophical views. They also take into account cost and deterrent effect

A common solution to the death penalty controversy is to sentence the criminal to life without parole
Reasons for life without parole include: errors, keeping killers off the streets for good, cost, and crime reduction/deterrence
Error: Innocent people can be sentenced to death because of lacking forensic evidence. Also, an innocent person serving life can be released from prison
Keeping killers off the streets for good: life without parole prevents re-offending
Cost: The death penalty is more expensive than keeping prisoners detained; the stakes are higher, thus, the process is more complex and consumes more time
Crime reduction: the death penalty does not keep us safer; homicide rates for states that use the death penalty are consistently higher than for those that don't
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