The Death Penalty in Black And White – Part I
I Was In Prison
Online Prison Ministry Newsletter
October 24, 2007
Dale S. Recinella, Catholic Lay Chaplain, Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed
Florida Catholic Bishops’ Campaign against the Death Penalty

Dale S. Recinella and Dr. Susan M. Recinella are the featured speakers in this program on the Catholic Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty in America. The Bishops of Florida have approved this series of presentations to educate Catholics and interested others about Church teaching on the death penalty. Attendance by catechists, educators, Respect Life coordinators, and Peace and Justice Committee members is particularly encouraged. The program will be offered in every diocese in Florida during 2007. At the following two locations, books will be available for purchase and signing.

Diocese of Venice
Saturday, October 27, 2007
1:30-4:30 p.m.
St. Ann Hall, Bishop Nevins Academy
4380 Fruitville Road
Sarasota, Florida
Contact: Marina Kopko (941) 441-1112
Sheila Hopkins (Florida Catholic Conference): (850) 205-6826 or

The Death Penalty in Black And White – Part I
By: Dale Recinella

The young man approaching from the end of the grocery aisle appears to know me.

Despite my efforts to age gracefully, memory isn’t what it used to be.

“You’re that guy that writes in The Florida Catholic. And I heard you speak about the Bible and the death penalty at my church in Bradenton Florida last year.”

“Yes, yes, I’m sure, that was me,” I laugh a little too hard with relief, realizing that I’ve not met him before. “How amazing that you recognized me. And how can I help you today?”

“Well it’s such luck to run into you here in Port Orange. I actually have some questions I wanted to ask you. Would that be okay?”

“Sure, no problem,” I scoot the grocery cart to the side of the toiletries aisle where I had been searching for personal items. “What’s on your mind?”

“Have you seen the fact sheet about the death penalty on the Florida Department of Corrections website? It says that most of the people on Florida’s death row are white males. And that most of the people who have been executed in Florida are white males. You said the death penalty was racially biased against blacks. How can that be?”

“Well let’s take that issue apart and look at it, okay? First of all, according to the national census, Florida’s population is between 12 and 13% black. Yet, of the 384 people on Florida’s death row, 132 are black. That’s a death row that is over 34% black in a state that is only 12-13% black.

“Also, of the 64 people executed in Florida since the death penalty was reinstated here, 21 have been black. That means about one-third (33.3%) of Florida’s executed people have been black even though only one-eighth (12-13%) of our citizens are black. The outcome is certainly disproportionate based on race. But that’s not the real measure of the level of discrimination.”

“You’re kidding?” the young man shakes his head as he leans against the stacked boxes of tissue. “If that’s not the measure, then what is?”

“The real racial bias in America and Florida’s death penalty is the bias based on the race of the victim. That is very predictable given the historical roots of our death penalty.”

“The American death penalty is from Scripture, right?”

“Wrong. To simplify hundreds of years of history in a nutshell, there were two different American death penalties. The northern version came from attempts by the Puritans to use portions of the Mosaic Law as a secular criminal code. Those laws were mostly abolished in the 1800s.

“The other version came from slavery. Slavery is the historical root of the modern American death penalty. Under that version, in general any crime that merited imprisonment of three or more years when committed by a white carried the death penalty if committed by a black. Such an approach was believed necessary because mere imprisonment was not considered a deterrent for people already in slavery. The racial death penalty of slavery obtained throughout the slaveholding regions, the Confederacy and the Border States. That region—which we now call the Bible Belt—is where almost 90% of executions take place in America today.

“The historical root of our death penalty in slavery is the reason that in modern America, even though only half of murder victims are white, over 80% of completed capital cases involve white victims.”

“That’s nationally. Surely Florida is better.”

“Not really. In Florida, the odds of getting a death sentence are more than three times higher if the victim is white than if the victim is black. Scholars tell us that historically, since the death penalty was instituted in Florida as a territory in 1769, not a single white person has ever been executed by the state for killing a black. That’s the real Florida death penalty in black and white.”

(To be continued)


Statistics updated as of September 24, 2007.

First published: The Florida Catholic, August 7, 2003 © 2003 Dale S. Recinella & The Florida Catholic. Used with permission. No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission. All rights reserved Used with permission. All rights reserved.
No further reproduction or republication without prior written permission.

I Was In Prison
News & Updates
This ezine is targeted for people involved in prison ministry or in stopping the death penalty, we think you will find helpful information for people who are undecided about capital punishment, for those who have never experienced the inside of a jail or prison, and for those who feel called to participate through prayer and adoration.

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Dale S. Recinella, Catholic Lay Chaplain, Florida Death Row and Solitary Confinement
Susan M. Recinella, Clinical Psychologist for mentally ill adults, and Catholic Lay Minister to Families of the Executed

If you Like this Weekly Ezine - You will love Dale's Book!
Sr. Patricia Proctor
Paperback: 433 pages

Excellent book on the topic!,
June 13, 2005 Nathan Eanes
(Review from

The Biblical Truth about America's Death Penalty is a must-read. It deals with Biblical standards of Capital Punishment and then compares them to the system used in America today. It is the best-researched, most faithful to scripture, and most evenhanded analysis I have ever read concerning the Death Penalty. Whatever your persuasion on the issue, this book will teach you a great deal. Recinella is a trained lawyer and committed Christian who now volunteers part-time on Florida's death row. He thus understands law, the Bible, and the system of execution in America. I challenge anyone who supports the Death Penalty to read this book.

This ezine edited by Sister Patricia Proctor, OSC - Poor Clare Sister
to support the IWasInPrison Outreach