Saturday, November 30, 2013

From Death Row to Restorative Justice

In June this year Texas marked a solemn moment in criminal justice history when it executed its 500th inmate since resuming capital punishment in 1982. Over coffee, on a misty November morning in Houston, Reverend Richard Lopez tells me he has witnessed nearly a hundred such deaths. Like Sister Helen Prejean he has stood by the side of the condemned, shared their last meal, laid one hand on their ankle as the lethal fluid is administered -- and prayed for God's grace.

As he recounts the stories of several of the men who he has attended to, he frequently falters, his eyes thick with emotion. Here is a man still deeply troubled by what he has witnessed. His original calling was to offer solace to the condemned, encourage repentance and show the way to God's forgiveness. Even the hardest and most brutal of men have softened to Rev. Lopez's gentle kindness. He went on to create support systems for the families who come to witness their loved one's last moments. Observing how devastated the mothers were as they watched their adult children move rapidly from a state of relative health to sudden death, he also created a system whereby family members could immediately after the execution visit the funeral home to say their good-byes in privacy.


Source: Huff Post-Crime, November 29, 2013