Wednesday, January 12, 2022
Greetings of peace!

Next week marks the 45th anniversary of the first execution in the modern death penalty era. Since January 17th, 1977, 1,540 people have been arrested, tried, sentenced to death, and executed in the U.S.

A quick analysis of the death penalty reveals that this is not only a fatal process impacting individuals, but it is a microcosm for all the other issues plaguing policing and incarceration in the U.S. 

As Ohio was preparing to resume executions, Ronald Phillips, the 54th person executed in the state, wrote to me saying, "You're right we make mistakes; we often say we are only human, but we also learn from our mistakes. God sees the blood of Jesus as we confess our wrongs and we keep moving forward; the enemy only wants to remind us of our faults, but the blood of Jesus gives us a message of hope and a new life. We were born with a sin nature, but we can make choices not to do this or that. God gives us the ability to choose. Surely I have made some mistakes; I confess and move away from those areas. Which I know you do the same." 

As we continue the movement to abolish the death penalty, I hope that we can all embody the merciful spirit Ronald shared, while also boldly challenging lawmakers to abolish not only the death penalty but all methods of punishment that depend on incarceration. 
In peace,

Lauren Bailey
National Field Organizer, Pax Christi USA
A prayer to abolish the death penalty
by Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ
God of Compassion,

You let your rain fall on the just and the unjust.
Expand and deepen our hearts
so that we may love as You love,
even those among us
who have caused the greatest pain by taking life.
For there is in our land a great cry for vengeance
as we fill up death row and kill the killers
in the name of justice, in the name of peace.

Jesus, our brother,
you suffered execution at the hands of the state
but you did not let hatred overcome you.
Help us to reach out to victims of violence
so that our enduring love may help them heal.
Holy Spirit of God,
You strengthen us in the struggle for justice,
Help us to work tirelessly
for the abolition of state-sanctioned death
and to renew our society in its very heart
so that violence will be no more.

All too often, the voices of those most impacted by the death penalty are intentionally left out of the conversation, leaving the dialogue around the death penalty to be abstract and impersonal.

The piece "On Death Row, There's No Such Thing As Closure" was written by Paul Brown who is facing execution in North Carolina. As we continue engaging in conversations about the death penalty, I hope that the voices of those who have witnessed the damage firsthand will be centered.
On Death Row, There's No Such Thing As Closure
by Paul Brown
It is August of the year 2000, and I am cold. I know the sun is shining outside, but there are no windows in the courtroom.

The lighting is subdued, darker in the back where spectators sit and lighter in the front where tragedies play out—like a theater. The chairs are made of dark leather, and the floor is heavily carpeted, muffling sound, creating a somber effect.

The prosecutor sits at a table on one side of the aisle, the defendant on the other. The jury box is off to the side—closest to the prosecution.

I sit at the defense table, charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

The term “closure” was used by the prosecutor to justify giving me a death sentence, as though me being killed would somehow bring closure to the victims’ family members in my case. It made sense at the time, I guess, about as much sense as anything else did back then. I was walking through a nightmare—one of my own making—that only grew more horrifying, moment by moment.

When anyone addressed me, I gave a greeting in return. The people who held me in contempt repudiated me with their eyes, but I wouldn’t look away, not immediately. I absorbed the blows like a good boxer, though I never punched back. I tried to use my eyes to show contrition, to say that I understood the pain I’d caused, and to say that I was sorry.

I tried to maintain as much dignity as I possibly could under the circumstances. But my gaze was cast mostly downward, weighted by shame.

I think it was against the rules for anyone to speak to me directly, but that didn’t stop them from staring...

>> Watch the TED Talk "We need to talk about an injustice" given by Bryan Stevenson. Bryan Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, fighting poverty and challenging racial discrimination in the criminal justice system.
Take actions to end capital punishment
As part of actions this weekend to mark the anniversary of the first execution of the modern death penalty, petitions will be delivered to White House and Department of Justice officials. Make your voice heard by signing the petition here to urge President Biden, Attorney General Garland, Congress, and the Supreme Court to demolish the death house & abolish the death penalty. To make your voice heard, sign here.
Join Catholics in urging President Biden to end the federal death penalty. Sign Catholic Mobilizing Network's petition by clicking here.
Gather with us virtually to commemorate the reinstatement of the modern-day death penalty. On Sunday, January 16th and Monday, January 17th there will be events calling for abolition. Johnny Zokovitch, Pax Christi USA's Executive Director, will be speaking at a teach-in from 6:00-7:30 pm ET/3:00-4:30 pm PT. To register for the virtual event, click here.

There will be a protest calling on all chambers of the U.S. Government to take action to abolish the federal death penalty at 9 am ET on Monday, January 17th. To watch a livestream of the protest and civil disobedience, register here.
For DC locals: Join us in person on January 16th and 17th for the teach-in and protest. Event locations and times can be found by clicking here.

If you’re planning to attend the protest on Monday (in any capacity) please fill out this form so the organizers can be in touch with event details. If you want to meet up with the Pax Christi USA group, email to coordinate.
If you can make a special contribution in celebration
of our 50th anniversary, we'd be so grateful! 
Just click on the donation button to the right
to give securely & quickly online. Thanks!!