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Home : News : Local
10/31/2012 11:08:00 AM
Local Catholic works to abolish death penalty
OADP photo
Ron Steiner speaks at the Rotary Club in Medford.
OADP photo
Ron Steiner speaks at the Rotary Club in Medford.
Jon DeBellis
Of the Catholic Sentinel

SALEM — In 2000, Ron Steiner was in New Mexico working in a re-entry program for ex-felons, helping to keep them from re-offending and going back to jail, when it finally sunk in.

The death penalty is wrong.

"I learned about how unfair it is; how discriminatory it is and it changed my view," said Steiner, a member of Queen of Peace Parish in Salem.

Steiner now works with Oregonians Against the Death Penalty in Salem as the chair of its board, helping to spread the word about the injustice of the death penalty, and is currently working with the group to get a measure on the ballot for voters to repeal the death penalty in Oregon.

And he's helped do it before.

In New Mexico, he served on a committee that worked with the governor, the Catholic bishops and other organizations to repeal the death penalty in that state in 2009.

After success there, he came to Oregon to work on repealing it here.

Steiner is excited about the growth of the movement in Oregon. Since 2010, he's watched the board of directors of OADP grow from six to 14; many of them former criminal justice system employees.

The group's steering committee now has more than 70 members including community leaders, academics and faith leaders. Their membership list of supporters has grown nearly 1000 percent.

Just last month, Steiner was speaking at a Rotary Club in Medford about the death penalty.

Steiner says there are three ways to look at why the abolishment of capital punishment is important.

There is of course, the moral, spiritual and/or religious side to it, an important one for him, in honor of the respect for life stance of the church he belongs to and loves.

But it also has to do with criminal justice and fairness issues, as well as the ineffectiveness and costliness of the death penalty track.

"People have their own opinions on the death penalty," said Steiner. "But when it comes to supporting the sanctity of life, it can become a conflict for some folks."

Steiner is excited that California has on its ballots for this November, a measure to repeal the death penalty, and he's hopeful, that someday Oregon will have its turn to replace the practice with life without possibility of parole.

He is excited about the continuing support of not only Catholics, but folks from around the state who have offered their support, and he prays for continuing leadership on the issue.

"We're trying to get out the word to as many people as possible," said Steiner. "We're tired of speaking to the choir. We want it in the public square to have people's minds open to learn about it."

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