Just three people have been executed in the past 56 years in Pennsylvania, yet more than 466 death warrants have been signed since 1985.Currently there are 150 inmates on death row. In 2012, the Joint State Government Commission was asked to study the practice and process of capital punishment in PA. On Monday, June 25, 2018, the long anticipated report about the death penalty was finally released.
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has long opposed the death penalty. The Catholic Church is committed to upholding the dignity and sanctity of every human life— even the life of a person convicted of a most heinous crime. Our Christian faith calls all people to grow in respect for human life and to oppose the death penalty in our modern society.
Catholic opposition to the use of the death penalty should not be construed as a lack of compassion for those who have been affected by violent crime. People convicted of capital offenses must be punished effectively and appropriately for their crimes. Family and friends of victims, and society as a whole, demand this; but true emotional, spiritual and even physical healing cannot be found in vengeance.
While the Joint State Government Commission’s report on capital punishment does not recommend abolishing the death penalty, it does confirm that our current system of state sponsored executions is flawed, ineffective, unjust, and expensive.
The Commission’s report should prompt an important and long-overdue debate about Pennsylvania’s penal system. The report demonstrates that the status quo is unacceptable. We can and must find alternatives to taking the lives of the guilty. Punishment should reflect our belief in the inherent human dignity of each person, and taking a life to avenge the death is in direct conflict with a culture of life.