Fiscal Year 2020 Impact Report

Message from CMN's Executive Director

Ending the death penalty is a critical step toward transforming our criminal legal system from one that glorifies violence and retribution to one that honors life, healing, accountability, and making amends. Catholic Mobilizing Network recognizes this necessity — as, I know, do many of you.

Over the past year, I have had the privilege of connecting with many CMN supporters. Each time, I learn something new about the organization's impacthow CMN's education, advocacy, and prayer tools have deepened formation, inspired hearts, and empowered agency.

What you'll find in this impact report is a story of faithful, individual actions combining together to create a vibrant national movement to dismantle the death-dealing system of capital punishment and implement more restorative responses to harm. Thank you for helping write CMN's story.

With gratitude,

Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, Executive Director

Impact by the Numbers

Advances Toward Abolition

Colorado Repeals the Death Penalty

Colorado became the 22nd U.S. state to abolish capital punishment on March 24, 2020, when Governor Jared Polis signed death penalty repeal bill SB 20-100 into law. Governor Polis then went on to commute the sentences of the three men on Colorado's death row to life without the possibility of parole.

To date, a total of 25 states are not carrying out executions due to formal abolition or governor-declared execution bans. Of the remaining 25 states where the death penalty is still permitted, ten have not conducted an execution in over a decade.

Declining Executions and Death Sentences

Nineteen individuals were executed between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020 — a 17% decrease over last year. A noticeable dip in executions can be attributed in part to the coronavirus pandemic, which halted executions across several states between March 11 and May 19. CMN anticipates a potentially expedited schedule of executions in Fiscal Year 2021.

Death sentences, too, have been on the decline after many court trials were put on hold in accordance with social distancing protocols. There have only been two death sentences imposed — in Ohio and California — since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic in mid-March. As a result, 2020 is anticipated to produce the fewest number of new death sentences of any year since the dawn of the modern U.S. death penalty.

Waning Public Support

The U.S. has seen a long-term decline in public support for capital punishment since it peaked at 80% in 1995. On June 23, 2020, renowned analytics and advisory company Gallup released the results of a new poll which showed public support for the death penalty at 54%, an all-time low.

Death Penalty Education

In keeping with its educational goals, CMN offered an array of death penalty presentations and briefings throughout the course of the fiscal year. A few highlights include: Death Penalty Briefing for the USSCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development (October 2019); Death Penalty Briefing for the National Association of State Catholic Conference Directors (December 2019); Webinar on the Death Penalty hosted by the Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition (October 2019); and "Let's Talk About the Death Penalty" Presentation at St. Michael's Catholic Parish in Houston, Texas.

Mounting Catholic Opposition to Federal Executions

On July 25, 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice announced plans to resume the practice of federal executions for the first time in nearly 17 years.

In the months that followed, CMN coordinated with abolition partners nationwide to launch a series of broad-based mobilization efforts, including:

  • USCCB Roundtable Against Federal Executions (pictured)
  • National Catholic Petition Against Federal Executions (3,393 total signers)
  • Faith Leader Letter Opposing Federal Executions (3,720 total signers)
  • Virtual Prayer Vigils (averaging 100 attendees)

Despite these coordinated efforts, the federal government proceeded to execute three men over the span of four days in July 2020. As of July 30, CMN is in the process of monitoring the status of two additional federal executions scheduled for August 26 and 28, 2020.

Implementing Restorative Justice

In fiscal year 2020, CMN continued to expand its restorative justice programming, with a focus on education and formation, story-sharing, and network building.

Restorative justice is a way of understanding crime and wrongdoing in terms of the people and relationships impacted, rather than solely the law or rule that was broken. Restorative practices seek to repair harm through transformative encounters that model Jesus' reconciling way.

More than 60 church ministry leaders participated in three capacity-building experiences that CMN hosted between Tallahassee, Florida, Washington, DC, and Chicago, Illinois last year. The latter served as CMN's first-ever Circlekeeper Training, and was hosted in collaboration with Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation.

In addition to its series of successful circle events, CMN led a variety of talks, workshops, webinars, and discussions that invited Catholics to imagine responses to harm that are rooted in healing and equity. Some highlights include: the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, DC; the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice in Arlington, Virginia; the St. Thomas Symposium on Restorative Justice, Law, and Healing in Minneapolis, Minnesota; a Restorative Justice Workshop in St. Petersburg, Florida; and a Prison Ministry Summit in Richmond, Virginia.

Participants sit in circle together at CMN's Restorative Circles Intensive in Washington, DC.

Addressing the Sin of Racism

Understanding racism is critically important to any conversations about justice in the United States. When racism is ignored, it "erodes the sanctity of life" (November 2018 USCCB Pastoral Letter Against Racism). This holds true for CMN’s mission to end the death penalty and promote restorative justice.

The modern-day lynching of George Floyd on May 25 by a Minneapolis police officer served as a gruesome reminder of the systemic racism that continues to plague the U.S. criminal legal system. CMN created the viral video below to amplify the calls of Catholic leaders for racial justice and systemic transformation.

Earlier in the year, the release of the film 'Just Mercy' was a catalyst for churches and communities to engage in crucial conversations about how structural racism is endemic to the system of capital punishment. CMN published its 'Just Mercy' Catholic Study Guide in January 2020; the resource has since been accessed by more than 20,000 users.

CMN's promotion of 'Just Mercy' continued throughout the course of the calendar year, to include a sold-out film screening, more than 800 registrants for our 'Just Mercy' webinar, and a tremendously successful virtual reflection event.

COVID-19 Challenges & Opportunities

The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic for those living and working in jails, prisons, and detention centers have been devastatingly severe. Reports show more than 70,000 people inside have tested positive for the virus; hundreds have died.

In May, CMN convened national groups including five USCCB Committee Chairmen, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Health Association of the United States, Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition, Jesuit Conference, and National Association of Catholic Chaplains to release a Statement of Solidarity: A Catholic Response to COVID-19 Behind Bars. More than 2,000 Catholics added their names to the statement, in addition to 105 organizational endorsers.

CMN's programming has shifted to the virtual realm for much of the spring and summer. In April, the organization hosted a popular webinar, "Five Lessons from Restorative Justice: In the Time of COVID-19". Additional virtual events include a watch party and discussion of the Netflix docuseries, 'The Innocence Files'; and a 'Just Mercy' reflection and discussion utilizing elements of circle process.

A Decade of Impact

There’s nothing quite like an anniversary year to inspire reflection on how far we’ve come.

Catholic Mobilizing Network celebrated its 10th Anniversary on October 10, 2019 — the 16th annual World Day Against the Death Penalty. A collection of more than 260 Catholic leaders, dedicated abolitionists, CMN supporters, and others gathered at the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, DC to celebrate the milestone achievement and event honorees.

Event Honorees

  • Karen Clifton, Founding Executive Director of Catholic Mobilizing Network
  • Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza, Archbishop Emeritus of Galveston-Houston and former president of the USCCB, who launched the Bishops' Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty.
  • Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ, Visionary anti-death penalty leader who inspired the formation of Catholic Mobilizing Network; Bestselling author of Dead Man Walking, The Death of Innocents, and River of Fire.

FY 2020 Financials

CMN's mission is made possible through a diverse array of revenue streams: a widening base of support, a faithful and growing Monthly Steward Circle, income generated from events, generous major donors, loyal support from men and women religious, welcome diocesan gifts, and an increase in the number of family foundations.

Thank you for being an important part of CMN's story.