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Death Penalty

ExecutionPFI's Board and Secretariat have taken a position opposing the use of the death penalty. This does not necessarily represent that of particular PF national affiliates since, being self-governing, they may take their own positions.

The statement of the PFI Board and Secretariat reads in part:

PFI’s Board and Secretariat oppose the use of the death penalty as a means of vindicating victims and punishing offenders.

We base this position on our respect for the sanctity of all human life from the moment of conception to a natural death.  Furthermore we recognize God’s redemptive justice and mercy, which extend to all people regardless of the crimes they may have committed.  Furthermore we recognize that the mission of PFI is to proclaim the gospel of salvation in Jesus to the prisoners of the world, a mission which would be rendered impossible if they are executed.

According to Amnesty International, at least 1,252 people were executed in 24 countries in 2007. In addition, at least 3,347 people were sentenced to death in 51 countries. During that year 88 per cent of all known executions took place in five countries: China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the USA.

International declarations and treaties opposing use of the death penalty are set forth here. These include four treaties:

  • The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty was adopted by the UN General Assembly and can be ratified by all members of the UN. To date it has been ratified by 71 countries.

  • The Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty was adopted by the General Assembly of the Organization of American States and can be ratified by all members of the OAS. To date it has been ratified by 11 countries.

  • Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms ["European Convention on Human Rights"] concerning the abolition of the death penalty, was adopted by the Council of Europe and can be ratified by any party to the European Convention on Human Rights. To date it has been ratified by 46 countries.

  • Protocol No. 13 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms [European Convention on Human Rights] concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances was also adopted by the Council of Europe. It explicitly provides for abolition of the death penalty even in times of war or threat of war. It can be ratified by any party to the European Convention on Human Rights. It has been ratified by 41 countries.

Rethinking the death penalty. Jennifer Grant. (2011). hermenutics.
From the article by Jennifer Grant: In March, the state of Illinois became the sixteenth state to abolish the death penalty. In his remarks after signing the bill, Governor Pat Quinn didn’t debate the morality of executing murderers. He didn’t discuss whether or not the death penalty deters heinous crimes. He didn’t even linger on the fact that all but fewer than 60 nations around the world reject capital punishment. No countries in Europe, except Belarus, practice it; other countries which continue to use the death penalty include Afghanistan, China, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and, of course, the United States.
Capital punishment: Deterrent effects & capital costs. Jeffrey A. Fagan (2011). Columbia Law School
From the article by Jeffrey A. Fagan: Capital punishment stirs up fierce debate in the United States. In this essay, Professor Jeff Fagan questions research that supports the long-accepted view of the deterrent effect of capital punishment. States must also come to terms with the fact that each execution can cost between $2.5 million to $5 million, he writes, and ask themselves whether that money can be put to better law enforcement uses.
My brother was murdered and I support ending death penalty. Charisse Coleman. (2010). Charlotteobserver.com.
From the article by Charisse Coleman: Every time we talk about ending the death penalty in North Carolina, someone throws out the old question: What if someone in your family were murdered? How would you feel then? For most people, that ends the discussion. Not for me.
Who deserves death? David Kaczynski, (2010) The Crime Report.
From the article from David Kaczynski on The Crime Report: Most people who support the death penalty agree that it’s not a solution to the problem of crime and violence. Rather, they believe that there are certain particularly depraved killers, the so-called “worst of the worst,” who deserve to die.
Catholic bishops oppose revival of death penalty
From the article by Jomar Canlas: THE Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) strongly opposed the revival of death penalty in the Philippines following series of heinous crimes in the country. This was after the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care (ECPPC) has joined with the Coalition Against Death Penalty (CADP) in opposing the restoration of the death penalty law in the country.
The collateral anti-therapeutic effects of the death penalty. Cynthia F. Adcock. (2009). Florida Coastal Law Review. Forthcoming.
The death penalty debate in the United States typically pits the offensiveness of the crime and offender and the societal need for this extreme punishment as an expression of moral outrage against evidence of arbitrariness, the risk of executing an innocent person and other systemic injustices. Most recently, in these tough economic times, the extraordinary financial cost of the death penalty has been thrown into the balance.
Survivor of a murder victim speaks out against the death penalty
In this short video, Marietta Jaeger Lane, whose daughter was kidnapped and murdered in the US state of Montana, speaks out against the death penalty. She states that to bring justice by killing someone diminishes the goodness and sweetness of her daughters life.
Executions, deterrence and homicide: A tale of two cities. Franklin E. Zimring, et. al., (2010). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. 7(1):1-29. [EN]
We compare homicide rates in two quite similar cities with vastly different execution risks. Singapore had an execution rate close to one per million per year until an explosive 20-fold increase in 1994–1995 and 1996 to a level that we show was probably the highest in the world.
Does capital punishment have a "local" deterrent effect on homicides? Randi Hjalmarsson (2009). American Law and Economics Review. 11(2):310-334
The vast majority of death penalty studies use geographically or temporally aggregated data. Such aggregation can make it virtually impossible to identify small amounts of variation in homicides due to executions. Therefore, this study uses data that are disaggregated down to daily and city levels to test whether executions have a short-term deterrent effect.
Uses and abuses of empirical evidence in the death penalty debate.John J. Donohue and Justin Wolfers (2006) Stanford Law Review. 58:791-846. [EN]
Thus, our aim in this Article is to provide a thorough assessment of the statistical evidence on this important public policy issue and to understand better the conflicting evidence. We test the sensitivity of existing studies in a number of intuitively plausible ways—testing their robustness to alternative sample periods, comparison groups, control variables, functional forms, and estimators. We find that the existing evidence for deterrence is surprisingly fragile, and even small changes in specifications yield dramatically different results. Our key insight is that the death penalty—at least as it has been implemented in the United States since Gregg ended the moratorium on executions—is applied so rarely that the number of homicides it can plausibly have caused or deterred cannot be reliably disentangled from the large year-toyear changes in the homicide rate caused by other factors. Our estimates suggest not just “reasonable doubt” about whether there is any deterrent effect of the death penalty, but profound uncertainty. We are confident that the effects are not large, but we remain unsure even of whether they are positive or negative. The difficulty is not just one of statistical significance: whether one measures positive or negative effects of the death penalty is extremely sensitive to very small changes in econometric specifications. Moreover, we are pessimistic that existing data can resolve this uncertainty. (excerpt)
The short-term effects of executions on homicides: Deterrence, displacement, or both? Kenneth C. Land. (2009). Criminology. 47(4):1009-1043.
Does the death penalty save lives? In recent years, a new round of research has been using annual time-series panel data from the 50 U.S. states for 25 or so years from the 1970s to the late 1990s that claims to find many lives saved through reductions in subsequent homicide rates after executions. This research, in turn, has produced a round of critiques, which concludes that these findings are not robust enough to model even small changes in specifications that yield dramatically different results. A principal reason for this sensitivity of the findings is that few state-years exist (about 1 percent of all state-years) in which six or more executions have occurred. To provide a different perspective, we focus on Texas, a state that has used the death penalty with sufficient frequency to make possible relatively stable estimates of the homicide response to executions. In addition, we narrow the observation intervals for recording executions and homicides from the annual calendar year to monthly intervals. Based on time-series analyses and independentvalidation tests, our best-fitting model shows that, from January 1994 through December 2005, evidence exists of modest, short-term reductions in homicides in Texas in the first and fourth months that follow an execution—about 2.5 fewer homicides total. Another model suggests, however, that in addition to homicide reductions, some displacement of homicides may be possible from one month to another in the months after an execution, which reduces the total reduction in homicides after an execution to about .5 during a 12-month period. Implications for additional research and the need for future analysis and replication are discussed. (author's abstract).
Do executions lower homicide rates?: The views of leading criminologists. Michael Radelet and Traci Lalock. (2009). Journal of criminal law and criminology. 99(2):489-508.[EN]
The question of whether the death penalty is a more effective deterrent than long-term imprisonment has been debated for decades or longer by scholars, policy makers, and the general public. In this Article we report results from a survey of the world’s leading criminologists that asked their expert opinions on whether the empirical research supports the contention that the death penalty is a superior deterrent. The findings demonstrate an overwhelming consensus among these criminologists that the empirical research conducted on the deterrence question strongly supports the conclusion that the death penalty does not add deterrent effects to those already achieved by long imprisonment. (excerpt)
Smart on Crime: Reconsidering the death penalty in a time of economic crisis. Richard C. Dieter (2009). Washington,DC: Death Penalty Information Center. [EN]
“Smart on Crime” is a new report from the Death Penalty Information Center that explores the prospect of saving states hundreds of millions of dollars by ending the death penalty. The report also serves to release a national poll of police chiefs in which they rank the death penalty at the bottom of their priorities for achieving a safer society. (excerpt)
The Alexandria Declaration on a Moratorium on the Death Penalty in the Arab World (PRI) 2008 [En] [Ar]
This document is a draft of the Alexandria Declaration calling for a moratorium against the death penalty in the Middle East.
Penal Reform Briefing No.1: Alternatives to the Death Penalty (PRI) 2007 [En] [Fr] [Ru]
This briefing examines the use of life imprisonment worldwide, including the increasing trend of life imprisonment without the possibility of release, or life without parole (LWOP). Emerging trends indicate an increase in the number of offences carrying the sanction of life imprisonment, a greater prevalence of indeterminate sentencing, a reduction in the use of parole, and the lengthening of prison terms as a whole. The abolition of the death penalty has played a significant role in the increased use of life imprisonment sentences, and LWOP in particular. Conditions of detention and the treatment of prisoners serving life sentences are often far worse than those for the rest of the prison population and more likely to fall below international human rights standards. (excerpt)
United Nations Compendium on Capital Punishment (UNODC) 2009 [En]
Affirms that, in order fully to guarantee the right to life, provided for in article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the main objective to be pursued is that of progressively restricting the number of offences for which capital punishment may be imposed, with a view to the desirability of abolishing this punishment in all countries (excerpt)
PROTOCOL TO THE AMERICAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS TO ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY (Organization of American States Doc.) 1990 [En]
This Protocol introduced in the Organization of American States as been ratified by 11 countries, and serves as another example of international legislation that seeks to abolish the practice of the death penalty.
Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty (United Nations Document) 1989 [En]
This Protocol was adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution in the December of 1989. It has since been ratified by a total of 71 countries. This document is an important resource in terms of recognizing the United Nations' effort to abolish the death penalty
Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms as amended by Protocol No. 11 (European Court of Human Rights.) September 2003 [En]
This document contains the articles of Human Rights, as concluded by the Council of Europe. While similar to the United Nation's Declaration of Universal Human Rights, this document also responds to issues of Human Rights that are more pertinent to Europe proper, including the issue of the death penalty as can be seen in the 6th and 13th protocols.
The Death Penalty v. Human Rights: Why Abolish the Death Penalty?
In this document Amnesty International calls on the UN General Assembly, 62nd session, (2007) to adopt a resolution affirming the right to life and stating that abolition of the death penalty is essential for the protection of human rights and to report on the implementation of the moratorium to the next session of the UNGA. It also calls on retentionist countries to establish a moratorium on executions and to respect international standards that guarantee the protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty.
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