The Lord Sets the Prisoners Free by Mary Killeen McCans

"The Lord Sets the Prisoners Free”: Catholic Social Tradition, Prison Abolition, and the Neuroscience of Redemption

Following the release of Pope Francis' encyclical Fratelli Tutti, which established the death penalty and life sentences in prison as always morally impermissible within Catholic Social Tradition, and interested in integrating my undergraduate work in Science and Peace Studies with CST, I undertook my capstone project on Catholic Social Tradition and prison abolition. While Pope Francis calls for the "improvement of prison conditions'', I argue that prisons cannot be simply improved or reformed, because the fundamental idea of incarceration is immoral. I support this argument by drawing from scripture, Catholic Social Tradition, and Neuroscience. I show that Christ himself rejected violence in his mission and ministry, and that Christians are called to do the same. I demonstrate that prisons are violent institutions incapable of achieving wide scale rehabilitation. reformation, or redemption by drawing upon the neuroscience of pro-social behavior, learning, and empathy. Finally, I offer restorative justice as an alternative paradigm of justice which is in alignment with the principles of Catholic Social Tradition and what Neuroscience tells us about the human brain and its ability to change throughout the lifespan.

Mary Killeen McCans
Major: Pre-Professional (Science), Other Minors & Programs: Peace Studies (Supp.)

CST Capstone Final Draft

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