Catholic Conference of Ohio
Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Issues - Catholic Conference of Ohio

Prison Ministry & Criminal Justice

"A Catholic approach begins with the recognition that the dignity of the human person applies to both victim and offender. As bishops, we believe that the current trend of more prisons and more executions, with too little education and drug treatment, does not truly reflect Christian values and will not really leave our communities safer. We are convinced that our tradition and our faith offer better alternatives that can hold offenders accountable and challenge them to change their lives; reach out to victims and reject vengeance; restore a sense of community and resist the violence that has engulfed so much of our culture..."

"As bishops, we offer a word of thanks and support to those who devote their lives and talents to the tasks of protection and restoration: chaplains and prison ministry volunteers, police and corrections officers, prosecutors and defense attorneys, and counselors. We call on others to join them in a new commitment to prevent crime and to rebuild lives and communities. As ordained ministers committed to service, deacons should be especially drawn to the challenge of Matthew 25: "For I was . . . in prison and you visited me." We also wish to stand in solidarity with crime victims in their pain and loss, insisting that all our institutions reach out to them with understanding, compassion, and healing..."
Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice. Issued by USCCB, November 15, 2000

Governor DeWine Continues to Issue Death Penalty Reprieves

Governor DeWine issued three more execution reprieves.  He stated in his order that this was due to ongoing problems involving the willingness of pharmaceutical suppliers to provide drugs to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC).  The Governor has issued a total of 24 death penalty reprieves.

The Conference commends this action.

The Ohio Attorney General’s 2020 Ohio Capital Crimes Annual Report, released on April 1, 2021, criticized the state’s death-penalty system as “increasingly time-consuming, costly, and lethargic.” (Read the Analysis by the Death Penalty Information Center)

Ohio Catholic Prison Ministry Leaders Issue Letter Regarding Ministry During COVID-19

Letter offers prayers and recommendations

The Diocesan Catholic Prison Ministry Directors and Coordinator throughout Ohio issued an open letter to Governor Mike DeWine, ODRC Director Annette M Chamber-Smith, ODRC Religious Services Administrator Mike Davis, Ohio Prison Wardens, and Ohio Prison Chaplains.  The letter offers prayers and encouragements, along with recommendations for further collaborations during this time of COVID-19.

"In this unprecedented and challenging time, we offer you our prayers, our hopes, and our recommitment to stand with you, as together, we pursue ways to safely offer spiritual ministry to inmates and their families. We deeply appreciate your public service and the ongoing support you offer to each of us..."

Church Leaders Welcome Passage of the FIRST STEP Act Through Congress

The First Step Act is a true first step towards long-term criminal justice system reform.

The FIRST STEP Act provides meaningful reform to our nation’s mandatory minimum sentences and “three-strike” policies. This reform provides a more just and equitable criminal justice system. In addition, the Act provides valuable incentives for prisoners to participate in vocational and rehabilitative programs helping to prepare them for reintegration into society. The Act also reauthorizes the Second Chance Act which provides access to meaningful local and faith-based programs that help returning citizens contribute to their communities and families.

Ohio's 132nd General Assembly Winding Down

Possible vetoes will determine the fate of several life-related legislation

The Ohio Legislature is expected to return on December 19 and December 27 to wrap up the 132nd General Assembly.  Legislation not passed by January 1, 2019, must be reintroduced in the next Assembly. Much will depend upon whether the House and Senate will attempt to override any Governor vetoes (including vetoes made in the 2017 budget bill).  The Governor has indicated that he may veto the Heartbeat bill (HB 258), the gun bill (HB 228) and the pay raise bill (SB 296).  The Senate needs 20 votes to override; the House needs 60. 


Ohio Catholic Bishops Urge Support for HB 81 & SB 40

Prohibiting the Execution of Individuals with Severe Mental Illness

The death penalty is not the answer to the problem of violence committed by persons with severe mental illnesses. The better policy is access to appropriate mental health care.

Resources for Prison Ministry & Criminal Justice

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections
Policy regarding Roman Catholic - Orthodox Religious Services

Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections


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