Dear Members of the Montana Legislature,
We, the undersigned faith leaders, reflecting the rich diversity of faith traditions and spiritual practices observed in Montana, stand together in expressing our opposition to our state’s death penalty. As faith leaders, the public often seeks our guidance and direction on tough issues. We write to you today to ask you to support Bill xxx, which will repeal Montana’s death penalty and replace it with a sentence of life without parole.
We join the many Montanans questioning our state’s death penalty system, which has consistently proved to be ineffective, unfair, and inaccurate. The death penalty not only applies disproportionately to the poor and to people of color, but also continues to make fatal mistakes, with 138 people now freed from death rows across the country due to innocence. The more we execute, the more likely it is that we will execute an innocent person, if we haven’t already.
We also have concerns about the way the death penalty fails murder victims’ family members. As religious leaders, we are sometimes looked to as resources for victims’ families in the aftermath of murder. As such, we have a special interest in advocating for policies that serve their needs and promote healing and well-being. Yet there is growing evidence that the death penalty does the opposite; it actually prolongs victims’ pain and delays healing while appeals and reversals force families to relive their trauma again and again.
Finally, we write to voice our unease about the way our state’s death penalty diverts funds from other needs. With the prosecution of a single capital case costing millions of dollars and in light of the serious economic challenges that face our nation, the valuable resources that are expended to carry out death sentences would be better spent investing in programs that work to prevent crime, such as improving education, providing services to those with mental illness, and putting more law enforcement officers on our streets. We should make sure that money is spent to improve life, not destroy it.
As people of faith, we take this opportunity to reaffirm our opposition to the death penalty and to express our belief in the sacredness of human life and in the human capacity for change. It is this respect for all life that prompts us to join with other death penalty opponents across the state now advocating for abolition of Montana’s death penalty. When a human life is at stake, there is simply no room for error.
We urge you to take a closer look at the reality of capital punishment in Montana and seek ways to achieve true healing and restorative justice for all those who suffer because of violent crimes. Please support death penalty abolition; the time is right for Montana to take a stand.
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