catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 2, Num 3 :: 2003.01.31 — 2003.02.13


Waiting for Madison

Part 12 of 12

In the days after Governor Ryan’s announcement, I watch victims’ family members, red-eyed and trembling, state that this event is like Governor Ryan has killed their loved ones all over again. I certainly feel compassion for these people who have been victimized sometimes by very sick, very guilty murderers. But my deepest sorrow occurs over their tendency to place their healing process in the hands of a system that kills instead of in the power of forgiveness. In an instantaneous revelation, I realize that the biggest failing of the death penalty system is that it diverts attention from true healing by claiming that the circle is complete when the murderer’s life is taken. We are fooling ourselves if we think this system, even without its flaws, is perfectly just. God’s justice is balanced by his mercy and there is no mercy in capital punishment.

Some argue that Governor Ryan is only trying to divert attention from the incriminating issues that have plagued him for the past few years and threaten to send him to prison in the near future. Some joke that he is merely paving the way for a better prison system that he himself will experience firsthand. Regardless, I believe he had nothing to gain by commuting 156 death sentences to life in prison and pardoning four men, except maybe a clear conscience. I also believe we have nothing to gain by encouraging this systematic revenge, but we have everything to gain by encouraging structures that foster forgiveness, reconciliation, and rehabilitation. It will be with the help of such structures that true healing will occur.

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