St. Mary's Law Journal


Helen Prejean


Death row reminds us that justice is not equal. Death sentences, opposed to being reserved for only the most heinous crimes, are generally related to the profile of the victim and identity of those most outraged by the crime. The majority of people on death row killed a white person, even though one-half of homicide victims in the United States are people of color. Because of this, and the fact that the law almost always sides with people of wealth and power, the death penalty works to compound societal trauma instead of healing or solving anything. The skewed and harmful rhetoric surrounding the death penalty further compound this trauma by further stigmatizing the other. For our trauma to truly be healed, we must ignore the skewed and harmful rhetoric, remember the human beings living through death row, and dismantle a practice that arbitrarily ends life.

We must educate ourselves and each other about the indignity of the death penalty and rippling effects it has on society. By educating people that the death penalty is selective, not a true deterrent, and six times more costly than life imprisonment, the second Abolitionist movement in the United States will occur. Similar to the Abolitionist movement that abolished slavery, through education and honest information, people will be able to see that they were merely sold a pitch of deterrence by politicians even though the death penalty does nothing to actually solve any crime problems. We each much contribute to love, compassion, freedom and liberty, while combatting hate and cruelty to ensure God is present with each of us.


St. Mary's University School of Law