As Quakers, we believe there is that of God within every person. Our belief in this inviolable divinity and dignity leads us to support the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act of 2021 (H.R. 262/S. 582), sponsored by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (MA-7) and Sen. Durbin (IL).
The bill would abolish the federal death penalty and prohibit the Department of Justice from using capital punishment in the future.
The bill would abolish the federal death penalty and prohibit the Department of Justice from using capital punishment in the future. Furthermore, the bill would require the re-sentencing of the 49 men currently on federal death row. It would also order the destruction of the death chamber used for the 13 executions carried out by the Trump administration, the highest number of federal executions in the last 120 years.
More than 90 members of Congress and 265 organizations have endorsed the legislation. On May 11, Rep. Peter Meijer (MI-3) became the first Republican to co-sponsor the bill, paving the way for possible increased bipartisan support.
“Over the past 40 years, 166 individuals have been exonerated from death row,” he said. “I think it’s really hard—personally—for me to square both granting government authority to kill its own citizens and also what that risk is in the government killing an innocent person,” said Meijer.
The Biden administration made a campaign promise to help “pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level, and incentivize states to follow the federal government’s example.”
The first 100 days of the administration have passed with no presidential action, but advocates are hopeful that President Biden will follow through with his promise soon by issuing a moratorium on the death penalty. However, this temporary halt could easily be lifted by the next administration. The Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act would make the end of the federal death penalty permanent.
“As a Quaker, I believe the death penalty denies the sacredness of human life, forever foreclosing on the opportunity for redemption,” said General Secretary Diane Randall. “It cannot be a part of a criminal justice system riddled with bias and human error. As the leader of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, I guide an organization working for the permanent abolition of capital punishment. But as a human — as a parent and a mother — I know we have no right to kill. Vengeance does not bring justice.”
Congress must pass the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act to move us closer to the world of justice, equity, and peace that we seek.