Pope calls for abolition of life imprisonment

Pope Francis has called for the abolition of life imprisonment, saying that it is another, hidden, form of the death penalty.

At a meeting with representatives of the International Association of Penal Law last week, the Pope denounced what he called “penal populism”.

This promises to solve society’s problems by punishing crime instead of pursuing social justice.

Pope Francis called on Christians and all people of good will to struggle not only for the elimination of the death penalty, but to also improve prison conditions.

The Pope made a link between this struggle and life imprisonment.

“Life imprisonment is a hidden death penalty,” he said.

The Pope noted that the Vatican recently eliminated the death penalty from its own penal code.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, cited by Pope Francis, admits the possibility of the death penalty as a last resort, where this is the only way to protect human lives from an unjust aggressor.

But the Catechism adds that such conditions are very rare, “if not practically non-existent” today.

The Pope said it is impossible to imagine that states cannot use means other than capital punishment.

Yet the death penalty is applied in various ways, often illegally, all over the planet, the Pope noted.

Pope Francis said contemporary societies overuse criminal punishment, partially out of a primitive tendency to offer up “sacrificial victims, accused of the disgraces that strike the community”.

The Pope said some politicians and media promote “violence and revenge, public and private, not only against those responsible for crimes, but also against those under suspicion, justified or not”.

He denounced a growing tendency to think that most social problems can be resolved through public punishment.

This thinking is characterised by the vain hope that punishment will result in the same benefits brought about by inclusive economic and social reform, he said.


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