Prejean sits down for a Q & A

Why is the death penalty wrong?

Because it always involves the torture of a human being, because of the mental torture. The UN convention on torture defines torture as an extreme mental or physical assault on someone who’s been rendered defenseless.

When I’m walking with a man to execution and he’s shackled hand and foot surrounded by guards and being led into a room to be killed … I said, ‘There is no dignity in this death.’

Dignity cannot depend on whether or not we think you’re innocent and you deserve it. This is when faith and the dignity of the human person made in the image of God coincides with what is taking us into the future — and it’s human rights.

You should never torture and you should never kill people. It’s the rendering of people defenseless and then killing them that is what constitutes the violation (of human rights).

How does the Gospel of Christ’s peace, love and justice relate to the dignity of human beings, and how does the death penalty take that dignity away?

The death penalty is a gateway issue. You open the doors of these gates and you come straight into the heart of the Gospel of Jesus. … Everything Jesus stood for was the opposite of returning hate for hate, pain for pain, death for death. Just imagine this: If his last words to Peter, James and John in the garden were that he would be honored by their revenging his death … just think of the bloodbath and the killing that would have unleashed. It’s so opposite to what Jesus is about.

How can society seek restoration for criminals on death row and criminals in general?

Most people don’t even think about the death penalty because it doesn’t affect most of us personally. The Gospel always means, “Waken up! Waken up!” So we do that by a good film to wake people up, or you get on the road and you give talks as a witness. That’s what we have to do.

The average educational level of Louisiana Prison Angola is fifth grade. What if we really educate people? People who are educated and have decent jobs don’t do crimes. That’s really restoring life. It’s estimated that 70 percent of people that do crimes were affected by alcohol or drugs. What if we really helped people deal with addictions instead of just throwing them away because they did drugs?

What are the chances they are going to come right back to prison (after being released)? Because (when) they get out, they’re still not going to have a job, their educational level has not improved and … a friend of mine who came out of prison said the only equal-opportunity employer when you get out of prison is a drug dealer because when you have a felony on your record, you won’t be hired.

Restorative justice means we deal with the root of the reasons, and it’s that dignity of human life, helping people have a dignified life by having their needs met.

Hearing you speak, the death penalty seems so nuanced.

All the deep wounds of our society are in this. It’s not a peripheral issue to pick up the death penalty. If you pull a thread in a fabric and it bunches up when you pull a major thread — that’s what the death penalty is. All our major wounds are in it. Racism is in it — death of whites means a lot more than death of blacks. Poverty is in it — poor people are selected to take the ultimate penalty. And the other wound that’s in it is thinking we can solve our social problems by using violence.

  • Jonathan Sheldon

    I am none of the above. I have a real interest in this community. I am not a Texas carpetbagger who roams the Internet bashing good people like the good sister.

  • dudleysharp

    UGH. You, again.

    to: Dahn Shaulis, aka Jonathan Sheldon, Vegas Quixote or vegasquixote or theamericaninjusticesystem, etc., etc.

    I appreciate your challenge. However, I don’t challenge credentials. I challenge facts. Some with credentials are idiots and liars. Some without are pretty smart and tell the truth. And then there is the reverse and everything in between. We both know that to be true, as do we all.

    I never question credentials, It’s not relevent, to me. As it is relavent, to you, I will respond. I have none, of the official sort, as everyone, very active in this debate knows. I, simply, have experience and have done a great deal of research spanning a number of years.

    Challenge my work, I will respond. That is my MO.

    Stop the personal, unproductive nonsense.

  • Jonathan Sheldon

    It is important to note that Dudley Crawford Sharp III is not a member of the Marquette community and is a self-appointed, un-credentialed expert on the death penalty who is the founder of Justice Matters, an organization he created to advocate the death penalty. He has received much attention on the internet, various publications and in television interviews. However, his credentials are never stated except that he is founder of Justice Matters. Mr. Sharp, in reality, is a Texas real estate broker with an expired license.

  • Dudley Sharp

    The Sister is, highly, misleading on biblical teachings, as well as other issues.

    “The Death Penalty: Not a Human Rights Violation”
    http://homicidesurvivors.com/2006/03/20/the-death-penalty-not-a-human-rights-violation.aspx

    “Death Penalty Support: Modern Catholic Scholars”
    http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2009/07/death-penalty-support-modern-catholic.html

    “Sister Helen Prejean & the death penalty: A Critical Review”
    http://homicidesurvivors.com/2009/05/04/sister-helen-prejean–the-death-penalty-a-critical-review.aspx