By Tim Leeds
Eve Malo and Clare Sinclair stopped in Havre Wednesday in their 42-day round-the-state trek to advance the cause of the Montana Abolition Coalition.
The coalition is as alliance of organizations and individuals seeking to abolish the death penalty in Montana. Malo, 70, and Sinclair, who will have her 80th birthday during the trip, made presentations in the schools and an evening presentation at the community center at the fairgrounds to explain their cause and stimulate discussion of the issue.
Their trip began in Deer Lodge on March 19, and will end in Helena on May 4. They have been making community and school presentations for their cause every day. The two said they never know where the discussions will take them, and adjust to the audience and the time they have. Sinclair said they usually are able to stay on the same issues, however.
She said they have had a wonderful experience. She said they have definitely had some impact on some of the people they have talked to in the 26 towns they have been at so far.
"What we're doing is a drop in the bucket, but it is a drop," Sinclair said.
They have a variety of literature they distribute supporting their cause. Some of the points that they make are that state sanctioned executions is a violation of human rights; that no credible study has ever proven the deterrent effect of capital punishment; that the cost of trying a capital case, maintaining a death row and performing an execution are estimated to be two to six times the cost of imprisoning a person for life; that statistics prove that the penalty is arbitrarily applied and is economically and racially biased; and has been too often applied to innocent people. Since 1972, 70 people sentenced to death have later been found to be wrongly convicted and released, and 23 people executed in this century were later found to be innocent, their literature said.
Malo, who taught at Northern Montana College before moving to Dillon to teach at Western Montana College, said they support the idea of restorative justice instead of retributive justice.
In retributive justice, the crime is considered an impersonal offense against the state, and the offender's accountability is defined as taking punishment. They said process tends to ignore the victim of the offense and make the offender's role passive.
In restorative justice, the focus is on the future, with the offender accountable for the impact of his action and helping to decide how to make things right for the victim. Malo said in this way both sides of the conflict are able to heal. Mediated confrontation and discussion of the offense are used in this process, with restitution by the offender required.
Malo said much of their coalition is based on the work of people who were victims of capital crimes but still oppose the death penalty. Malo herself has such a background. Her uncle murdered his own mother, Malo's grandmother, when he was seventeen, but his family forgave him and took him back in. With this support, he went to college, found a job, got married and became a productive member of society after he was released from his prison sentence, Malo said.
If interested in joining the coalition, learning more about it, or sending a donation, contact them at: The Montana Abolition Coalition, c/o Montana Association of Churches, 180 24th St. West, Suite G, Billings, MT 59102-4731; FAX 406-656-2156; e-mail email@example.com.