Ferguson, A Changed Man, is Executed

This week the State of Missouri executed Jeffrey Ferguson.  By all accounts Ferguson had changed his life in prison.  Hooked on drugs and alcohol at the time he murdered Kelli Hall in 1989, he spent the last two decades in prison as a model inmate.  Ferguson had devoted himself to making the prison a compassionate, safer environment for staff and guards.  He helped establish a hospice program for dying inmates, he worked with the prison restorative justice program helping crime victims to heal, and he provided spiritual guidance through the prison ministry program to inmates, some of whom would one day return to society.

Without question, Ferguson committed a heinous crime.  Our hearts go out to the Hall family for the suffering they have endured but, sadly, nothing will return Kelli to them.  In denying Ferguson’s clemency application, Governor Nixon upheld the execution as the “appropriate sentence.”

But one can legitimately wonder how this sentence, twenty-five years after the crime, is “appropriate.” Supporters of the death penalty often cite deterrence as a reason to execute someone, but Ferguson was no longer a threat to society.  He had earned the respect and trust of both staff and inmates.  The prison chaplain wrote in his clemency letter, “If Jeff were to be released, I would not have a problem with him living next door to me.”

Did this execution bring a sense of justice?  Catholic tradition supports restorative justice whereby the offender is to be held accountable for his crime, but must work to make amends.  Ferguson could have spent the rest of his life in prison, doing the good work that he was doing-making a valuable contribution to society.   A life without parole sentence would have still resulted in his death in prison.

In reality Ferguson’s execution was nothing more than retribution, taking one life for another.  But revenge rarely brings comfort or healing.  The execution of a man, who at this point in his life, was a caring, contributing member of society, makes no sense.  Society has gained nothing by this execution.  We are all diminished.
Posted: March 28, 2014

2 thoughts on “Ferguson, A Changed Man, is Executed

  1. Marlene Mareth says:

    In defense of elimination of the death penalty, I am often told that prisoners “live like kings” when they are incarcerated & deserve execution. This is an irrelevant reason for taking lives but does make me wonder…what is a typical wk. like in city, county, state or federal prison? Please advise me where I can get some info. re: daily lives of prisoners in all MO facilities. There seems to be a perception in society that prison life is lots of modern media, libraries, education, recreation, etc………soft living in other words. If you have printed materials, my address is:
    Marlene Mareth, 405 Grand Ave., Monett, MO 65708
    I would like to rcv. what is available or referral to resources who can educate me. Thanks

    • mocatholic says:

      Reference the Friends and Family handbook put out by the Dept. of Corrections, The book can be found at http://doc.mo.gov/Family_and_Friends.php. It gives a good perspective on what families can expect when they have a loved one in prison. If you would like to connect with someone who actually goes into the prison, Fr. Pat Dowling of the Jefferson City Diocese does prison ministry. His email is dowling50@gmail.com. He is a very kind man and would likely answer any questions you may have.

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