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Opposition to death penalty seen firsthand

Published: Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014 8:45 a.m. CDT

My opposition to the death penalty took shape some four decades ago after reading "The Crime of Punishment" by Dr. Karl Menninger, an eminent U.S. psychiatrist (1893-1990).

Because of my current situation, I've been blessed with an opportunity to engage in conversation with some of this state's former death row inmates, which has furthered distanced me from the vengeful rhetoric of the "eye for eye" crowd. After all, even God gave Cain a pass for humankind's first recorded capital murder. 

I came across a publication by LifeLines (www.LifeLines-uk.org.uk) from the United Kingdom, a country that seems to have more enlightened views than our own violence-prone population.

LifeLines' mission statement reads, "LifeLines is an organization that supports and befriends prisoners on death row in the United States through letter writing. It was founded in 1988 in Cambridge, Great Britain. It is not a religious, political, or campaign organization, though respectful of varied individual beliefs and values of its members. It is not associated with any other group(s) who find pen friends on death row." 

In its summer 2014 issue of The Wing of Friendship, Melanie, one of the members, shared the following: "In a world where our friends in America are kept in dehumanizing cage-like conditions, emotions can remind them that they are alive.

"From the time we are born, human development is based upon the experiences of relationships with others. We are social creatures, and, as a species, need social interaction for our survival." (page 6, with permission)

Befriending and forgiving even the most heinous of outcasts are what some faiths command. Although LifeLines is not a Christian organization, it sees to put self-righteous hypocrites to shame. 

Doesn't "sanctity of life" extend to more than just the unborn?

To paraphrase Sister Helen Prejean, author of "Dead Man Walking," people are more than the worst thing they have ever done.

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