[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Apr 5 17:52:21 CDT 2005
Death Row inmates end hunger strike----Inmates claim their 'civil and
constitutional right' were being breached
Death Row inmates at Her Majesty's Fox Hill Prison ended their 3-day
hunger strike to engage in talks with prison officials on Sunday.
According to reports reaching the Nassau Guardian the condemned men were
assured during the weekend meeting that their complaints about civil and
constitutional infractions would be addressed.
Reportedly, 12 inmates began the hunger strike on Friday to bring
attention to their "inhumane conditions." They vowed that they would
continue refusing their daily rations of food and drink until their
demands for improved detention conditions were met or an acceptable
arrangement put in place.
Following the meeting, the Guardian was anonymously informed that matters
had returned to normal and the men were satisfied that their concerns
would be "taken care of."
The Guardian attempted to contact newly-appointed Superintendent of
Prisons, Dr Elliston Rahming, but was told that he was on another call,
after which he was reportedly due to attend a meeting. The calls were not
returned up to press time. However, it is believed that Dr Rahming played
a significant role in Sunday's meeting, during which an understanding was
The Guardian was told that the inmate's complaints are long-standing.
In a petition hand-delivered to the Nassau Guardian by attorney Paul Moss
and signed by 13 Death Row inmates, they claimed that their "civil and
constitutional rights" were being breached.
"We the concerned majority on death row with all due respect have some
very pertinent and monumental issues that need to be addressed so that an
amicable and fair agreement can be reached without any ill-will or
animosity being harboured by either side. We are seeking to be showered
everyday according to the prison rules. We are seeking daily exercise in
an appropriate area that is sufficiently ventilated, free from the
inhalation of stench emanating from overnight faeces, and an exposed urine
hole, which is stacked in the area we exercise in. It is unacceptable and
inhumane," the letter said.
According to the 4-page document, allegedly signed by 13 inmates, an
alternative option that is accessible is the development of a basketball
court that can be constructed using half of the backyard. They said the
manual labour is free, and the project would achieve great strides in
terms of providing good fundamental recreation, which is one of the main
tools needed for reform.
"For those of us who have family coming from other Family Islands and
elsewhere overseas, we are seeking a special visitation time frame of one
hour, because it is absolutely unfair to have loving and concerned
visitors flying in to see their loved ones spending excessive amounts of
money just for a 20-30 minute visit. It is a grave injustice and
inconvenience to a concerned family.
"We are seeking a transparent and consistent system whereby we can be
facilitated unrestricted access to shopping from the Prison Commissary
because as it stands now we are being denied a fundamental right that was
being enforced from the inception of the Prison Commissary in 1998. But
with the passage of time, this fundamental right has been taken away
without any explanation of any kind. In addition to the above, in many
cases monies have been deposited on to our accounts by family members but
we have not been allowed to spend our money even for essential toilette
articles," the letter read.
It went on to advise that starting 1 April, the concerned majority on
death row "because of grave infractions of our fundamental civil and
constitutional rights" have come to a unanimous decision to refuse our
daily rations - no food, no drink, refusing our showers, and our exercise
time in the yard.
"These circumstances will not change until we receive genuine changes
afforded to us as citizens of this Commonwealth of The Bahamas which is
enshrined within the constitution," the letter said.
Among those signing the petition are inmates Trono Davis, Michael Edwards,
Forrester Bowe Jr., L Sheldon Cartwright, Keith Aaron, Robert G. Greene,
Leslie Webster, Ellison Smith, Anthony Evans, Wesley Giste and Peta Cash.
Attorney Moss told the Guardian that he did not know any of the death row
inmates personally, but stated that another inmate on their directions
gave the letter to him.
On several occasions, Mr Moss spoke out against prison conditions. "Having
regard to the various issues that I have raised with the prison over the
last couple of years or so, certainly the conditions are as described
there. Last week an inmate described for me how they used their slop
buckets and it was very disturbing to think about it.
"In my view, the appointment of Dr Elliston Rahming is perhaps the single
greatest appointment this government has made, but it is going to take
much more than an appointment. He certainly needs the tools and ammunition
to get the job done and that would be in my view, that he needs to rid
himself of the old guard that is still at the prison in order to make
changes," Mr Moss said.
He called on the government to live up to its commitment and "put their
money where their mouth is" and find funds for the prison and prison
reform. "The government has an obligation to press forward to make things
better and to stop these guys from going on hunger strike. And because
they are on hunger strike it draws national attention, if not
international attention to it, because this is a number of people and so
the government really ought to put their shoulders to the wheel and get it
(source: The Nassau Guardian)
Pope's Influence On Death Penalty
Many of the most devout followers of the most famous of all victims of
capital punishment, the Nazarene who was crucified on the Calvary cross,
took a long time to recognize that state-sponsored execution is an affront
to their history and their faith. For close to 1,500 years, the Catholic
Church taught that the state had a right to punish criminals "by means of
penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in
cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty."
For centuries, that line in the Catechism of the Catholic Church was used
by Catholic politicians -- and others who sought a moral justification for
their actions -- to place a veneer of legitimacy on even the most cavalier
executions of the young, the mentally handicapped and the innocent. Even
as Pope John Paul II moved the church closer and closer to explicit
opposition to the death penalty during his long tenure, the loophole in
the Catechism remained.
Then, in 1997, Sister Helen Prejean, the American nun and death penalty
abolitionist who authored the book "Dead Man Walking," asked Pope John
Paul II to close the loophole. Late that year, the Pope removed the
reference to the death penalty from the Catechism and, when he visited the
United States two years later, he denounced the death penalty as "cruel
and unnecessary." Referencing moves by countries around the world to ban
capital punishment, the Pope declared in St. Louis that, "A sign of hope
is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be
taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil."
So pointed and passionate was the Pope's message on the issue that the
then-governor of Missouri, Mel Carnahan, a Baptist and a supporter of
capital punishment, commuted the sentence of a condemned man who was
scheduled to be put to death by the state several weeks after the Papal
It is to be expected that the death of a pope will be attended by
hyperbole. And the passing on Saturday of John Paul II has proven to be no
exception to the rule. The late pontiff has been credited with everything
from defeating communism to healing the age-old rift between Catholics and
Jews, just as he faces legitimate criticism for everything from
undermining the fight against AIDS by preaching against the use of condoms
to consigning the women of the church to second-class citizenship.
The legacy of a pope who served 26 years, 5 months and 17 days -- longer
than all the popes in history, save St. Peter and the nineteenth-century
pontiff Pius IX -- will, of course, be subject to debate. Wise souls will
for centuries ponder the accomplishments and the missteps of the man who
began his earthly journey as a Polish boy named Karol Jozef Wojtyla and
ended it as one of the most recognized and respected figures in the world.
But one aspect of this pope's legacy is not up for debate. During John
Paul II's pontificate, the Catholic Church closed the loophole that had
served as all-too-many justifications for the taking of the lives of
prisoners of the state. New Orleans Archbishop Francis Schulte said the
change opened up "a whole new area (of consideration) for many Catholics."
Sister Helen Prejean described it as a "Seismic shift" in church teaching.
That shift had a profound influence on former Illinois Governor George
Ryan, who declared the capital punishment system in Illinois "broken," and
commuted the sentences of all 167 inmates sitting on death row in Illinois
jails in 2003. And it continues to be felt today, as the U.S. Conference
of Catholic Bishops wages a newly launched national campaign to end the
use of the death penalty in the United States.
There will be many grand eulogies to mark the passing of Pope John Paul
II. But none will be more eloquent than the ongoing campaign to bar the
barbaric practice of state-sponsored execution. Perhaps John Paul II was
not the most modern pope, but he recognized the progress of society and
moral teaching when he preached that, "Modern society has the means of
protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to
(source: The Nation)
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