The following comes from an October 5 Orange County Catholic article by Kimberly Porrazzo:

More than 75 people gathered last night in the Freed Theater on the Christ Cathedral campus to hear from experts in the criminal justice system, as well as from those impacted by violent crimes, all of whom are committed to reforming our criminal justice system and ending the death penalty.

The evening event, titled “A more excellent way: Criminal Justice Reform in the Year of Mercy,” was inspired by a chapter from St. Paul to the Corinthians (12:26 “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it”), said Greg Walgenbach, director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace, who opened the meeting.

He reminded the audience: “We are all sinners. We are all part of the human family and we live together in communities.” He noted that anthropologically we’re wired to find peace in our communities by scapegoating and that we need to rethink our approach to the criminal justice system.

Bethany Webb, the sister of a victim of the 2011 mass shooting at the Salon Meritage in Seal Beach, CA, shared that despite losing her sister and other friends that day, she is not in favor of the death penalty for the confessed shooter.

“In the name of my sister and of my mom (who was the sole survivor of the shooting of 8 people that day), we’re saying together (that) we don’t want his death in our name.”

Webb shared that the Seal Beach shooter was angry and felt the only way to assuage his anger was to kill. Now, she said, proponents of the death penalty tell her that his execution will relieve her of her anger over his violent acts.

“Proposition 66 says that if you hold on to that anger and resentment, we’ll make you feel better when you witness the murder of someone else… I reject that,” Webb said adamantly.

Walgenbach noted that the California Catholic Conference is urging that voters support Proposition 62 by voting “yes” and reject Proposition 66 with a “no” vote.

Jennifer Koh, director, Western State Immigration Clinic and Hairo Cortes, and an organizer with Orange County Immigration Youth United, asked the audience how many of them know someone who is here without documentation. Half of the audience raised their hands.

“Being undocumented is actually not a crime,” Koh said. “Not having papers to be here is not a criminal offense.” Our implementation of the law, she said, has made criminals out of the undocumented population. “Referring to people as illegals or aliens,” she said, “has a criminalizing affect, or the act of detaining them while waiting for possible deportation (putting them behind bars) makes them feel like a criminal.”

“There are rights that exist (in our criminal justice system) such as double jeopardy and the right to a defense attorney,” Koh said, “but none of those rights exist in, or apply to, immigration law.”

Koh concluded that in all parts of the legal and criminal justice system, three words should guide all: Dignity. Mercy. Grace.