Call to Action: Let’s abolish imprisonment!!

Earlier this week Pope Francis called the people of good will to fight for the abolishment of the death penalty and all of it forms. An article published by the Vatican Radio speaks to this event. During his talk Pope Francis explains that life sentence concept was annulled in the Vatican Penal Code, because it is really a concealed death sentence. Criticizing this form of punishment he goes on to say that these so called extrajudicial or extra legal execution are forms of homicide, the term used was deliberate homicides that are being committed by official behind the curtain of law. Meaning that they are being justified because of the legal system.

The purpose of the talk was to raise awareness and call all Christian; he also extends the invitation to people of goodwill to not only fight for the abolition of the death penalty but also for the improvement of prison conditions. Pope Francis outlines that the condition of prisons does not respect the human dignity of those who have been convicted of a crime. He speak to the deplorable condition of detention centres and how they are also vey inhuman and a degrading trait, which he says are caused by the deficiencies of the criminal system.

This religious leader compares the detention in maximum-security prisons to a form of torture. The isolation creates mental and physical difficulties that results in suffering and an increase in suicidal thoughts, since that is the only way to escape prison for an inmate sentenced to 20 years to life.

Throughout this article Pope Francis criticizes the purpose of penal law and most of all of imprisonment. The motive behind it is good; it is eye opening that someone of this stature is speaking to the inhumane prison conditions. And while inmates have committed a moral wrong to society they are still human and they have the right to life, which seems to be the central thesis of this article.

Raising awareness to the problem of inhumane conditions is very admirable, but what perplexes me is that he goes on to ask people to fight for the abolishment of the death penalty and the life sentence. While I do understand that the Catholic teachings say Thou Shalt Not Kill, I understand the opposition to the death penalty. However I do not understand the opposition to the life sentence. It is a common ideology, worldview or world phenomenon that one, who breaks the law, is punished. The people that have been sentenced to life or to the death penalty are punished due to the horrendous acts they have committed, against another human being. It is not the case that those people were unaware of the consequences, those who are, are treated differently and for example are admitted to special institutions such as a psychiatric institution.

This call to action, and awareness would be more efficient if Pope Francis would provide an example of an alternative penal sanction to be used instead of imprisonment. It would make the argument more favourable and less absurd in a manner. It is the ideology, the theory the system to punish or imprison an individual for their wrongful actions.

#349 #uwreligions



One thought on “Call to Action: Let’s abolish imprisonment!!

  1. To start, while the author of this blog made a good attempt at conveying the popular opinion of pro-death and life sentences, I found that this blog seemed to lack a religious aspect. I understand the anti-death and life sentences messages were made by the Pope, however, from my view, he made these opinions less on a religious basis and instead more out of a simple respect for human dignity that any religion could understand including those who do not believe in religion. Thus I believe this article lacked the religious aspect. Secondly, I highly but respectfully disagree with the author’s agreement of life sentences. In our modern society, countless studies have been conducted on the efficiency of “get tough on crime” models and have been proven to not work. Criminals are not deterred by life sentences and it simply creates a deprivation of life that should they ever be released, only creates for a situation in which they have no way of surviving without resorting to crime. This is due to them being deprived of education, their families, work, the changing ways of society, money, etc. that they cannot flourish outside of prison. Our system instead needs to be focused on rehabilitation, social work, repairing these individual’s deep problems that have made them turn to crime, and giving them the tools needed to lead a successful life. I agree with the Pope and believe that every human, no matter what they have done should be given a chance to change and grow, as most of the time there are deep seated issues (that they did not ask for and were just the unlucky ones to go through) to why they commit crimes. The author of this blog refers to the punishment of criminals as a worldview; this however does not fit the definition. In relation to this class, a worldview was described as a map of the world that people carry in their heads that define what they do. The punishment of criminals does not define what or why people do what they do; in fact it’s not related in any way. The punishment of criminals is a policy decision, not a life guiding principle. People need to look beyond penal populist agendas/opinions and instead become in touch with their own personal opinions of right and wrong and as Pope Francis put it, the definition of human dignity.
    #349 –MJ

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