Catholic Advocacy Impacts the Continued Decline of the Death Penalty
Washington, DC - Death sentences and executions in 2017 remained near 2016’s historic lows, as public support fell to its lowest level in 45 years according to a report released by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) on December 14th. Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN), the national Catholic organization working to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice, is encouraged as the use of the death penalty continues to dwindle.
Karen Clifton, Executive Director of CMN stated, “Catholic Mobilizing Network is renewed and energized by the continuing decline of the death penalty. As Pope Francis prophetically stated in October, the death penalty is ‘contrary to the gospel, ’ and people of goodwill are quickly moving away from the death penalty towards life, mercy, and restoration.”
In total, 23 executions were carried out by only eight states, the second lowest total since 1991. Fourteen states and the federal government are projected to impose a total of 39 death sentences in 2017, the second lowest since 1972.
Public support for the death penalty also dropped to 55%, including a ten percent drop for those identified as Republican, the lowest level since just before the US Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional in 1972. “Now more than ever, people from across the political spectrum are uniting around the reality that the death penalty is a failed public policy that denies the inherent dignity of the human person,” Clifton remarked.
DPIC’s Year End Report revealed that an alarming 90% of those who were executed this year showed significant evidence of severe mental illness, intellectual disability, brain damage, severe trauma, and/or innocence. Additionally, this year saw four exonerations, bringing the total to 160 people who, since 1973, have been released from death row due to their innocence.
“DPIC’s Year End Report clearly shows we are not executing the ‘worst of the worst,’ we are executing some of society’s most vulnerable,” Clifton said.
A significant sign of the death penalty’s eventual demise is that Harris County, Texas - the country’s most egregious user of the death penalty - neither executed nor sentenced anyone to death for the first time since 1974.
“The importance of Harris County cannot be overstated,” Clifton declared. “When the most prolific user of the death penalty does not issue any death sentences or carry out any executions, the tide has clearly turned. The Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops along with people of faith and goodwill in Texas played a pivotal role in making this happen.”
Clifton further emphasized the importance of these findings, “The death penalty is swiftly coming to an end. Catholic Mobilizing Network urges all Catholics and people of goodwill to join us in this work of life. Sign the National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty and educate, advocate, and pray for an end to the death penalty.”
More information about the National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty as well as Catholic Mobilizing Network can be found at catholicsmobilizing.org.
Catholic Mobilizing Network (CMN), working in close collaboration with United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and as a sponsored ministry of the Congregation of St. Joseph, proclaims the Church’s pro-life teaching and prepares Catholics for informed involvement in the public debate to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice.