SAN BERNARDINO—The Diocesan Office of Restorative Justice, in collaboration with Catholics Against the Death Penalty (CADP), has launched a campaign to lobby Governor Jerry Brown to commute the sentences of those on death row to life in prison without the possibility of parole. While, constitutionally, the Governor cannot commute the entire death row, he can commute the sentences of some who are there.
This campaign is taking place during the Lenten season and involves high school age youth in parish Confirmation and youth ministry programs as well as Catholic high schools in the Diocese.
“Engaging high school youth in a campaign such as this raises their awareness of the penal system and also calls them to reflect on Catholic teaching about the immorality of the death penalty,” said Marciano Avila, Director of the Restorative Justice Office. Generally, it encourages youth to become involved in this social issue and become advocates for a more just society, he adds.
Through this effort, youth attend a one-hour catechetical session on “Respect Life and the Death Penalty” during which they receive a letter addressed to Gov. Brown that they are encouraged to sign. The letters are collected and eventually delivered to the office of Governor.
While the official launch of the campaign was on Ash Wednesday, Our Lady of Solitude Parish in Palm Springs got an early start with 32 signed letters and Aquinas High School with 50 letters from students there. St. Francis of Assissi Parish in La Quinta held its session on March 3.
Statewide, the Restorative Justice offices in the dioceses of Oakland and San Jose are also participating in the campaign, while Catholics Against the Death Penalty is spearheading this effort in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
California has the largest death row population in the nation with 747 men and women (726 men and 21 women). Of these, 123 are from the Diocese of San Bernardino. The last execution in California was in 2006, but the state spends an average of $150 million yearly to maintain its death row.