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.