Stars gathered for the "Death Penalty Focus’s 18th Annual Awards Dinner" at Hollywood’s Universal Studios last month to honor New Mexico ’s Governor Bill Richardson with the 2009 Humanitarian Award.
Founded in 1988, Death Penalty Focus is dedicated to the abolition of capital punishment. FOXNews.com talked to "7th Heaven" star Stephen Collins there about the controversial topic.
The Iowa-born actor/writer, who, by the way, is the great-great-great grandson General James Baird Weaver, the 1880 Greenback Party presidential candidate and the 1892 Populist Party candidate for president, is a long-time contributor to the organization.
FOX: What is your stand on the death penalty?
Stephen Collins: It doesn't work. It's expensive, most people don't know that it costs more to execute a person than it does to put them in prison for life, so for people who say I'm not going to pay money to feed prisoners, it strangely enough is economically sound. But we're also one of two countries in the entire Western civilized world who have the death penalty, and there's so much research that shows the victims families don't end up feeling better because of it. I don't know who ends up winning with the death penalty, except politicians who like to sound tough.
FOX: What do you believe the solution is?
Stephen Collins: I'm old fashioned and I believe in rehabilitation. I also believe that there is too much evidence that shows we've executed people wrongly, and people who say ‘well that's the price we have to pay,’ no, we don't have to pay this price. America and South Africa are the only two western nations to execute people. Why do we have to pay that price? Why do we have to pay the price for being wrong occasionally?
I used to do some work with a group that taught meditation at San Quentin prison and it was very interesting to close your eyes and meditate with people on death row. There was a guy there that was in for life, a famous prisoner named Geronimo Pratt, and he was basically framed for murder, he was a Black Panther who they framed, and he was in prison for 22 years before he got out, and much of that in lockdown, and we do make mistakes. At least Geronimo Pratt is alive and he's out. It’s horrible that he had to spend that much time behind bars, but he wasn't executed.
FOX: What about all of the talk about whether Jesus would have supported capital punishment?
Stephen Collins: The death penalty solves nothing except a kind of understandable but misguided sense of justice and vengeance, and certainly Jesus never says anything about executing people. I go to church, I'm a Christian. I think it’s interesting that so many political Christians support the death penalty when Jesus Christ never says a single, slight word about putting people to death, never even slightly. I don't know where they're coming from as Christians. I don't understand.
FOX: Can we make progress on this issue?
Stephen Collins: People are saying prisons are crowded and there aren't too many states that are under budget, so we need to reexamine the dollars we are spending to indulge our lust to put people to death. It is interesting to see the states just missed a referendum in Colorado, but [the death penalty] has been overturned in a couple of states, and most of my life, the death penalty wasn't with us. If we could point to the last 25 years and say ‘Yeah the death penalty is really working’? It was always in my gut and troubled me. As a Christian it troubles me, and Christ did not advocate putting people to death for any reason.