Dead Man Walking

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Critical Reflection: Restorative and Retributive Justice and Culture of Life and Death By: Maria Camila Cuellar
“Dead man walking” is an expression often used by a police officer when accompanying a criminal walking towards his death. How can a dead man walk? This is a contradicting sentence that makes no sense. It dehumanizes the person walking and lets the person know that is going to die for the infraction committed. This is one of the last sentences Matthew Poncelot in the movie “Dead Man Walking” heard. Ironically, the last sentence Matthew said was “I love you”. How was he able to express love in such a “culture of death”, surrounded by people that hated him and wanted him to die? This was part of Sister Helen’s job, to build a culture of life in Matthew and use restorative justice instead of retributive justice to make him grow as a person before his death. For Matthew being fully alive meant having what he wanted and doing what he wanted, even if his actions affected someone else. He was racists and thought that black people were less worthy of living; this is a perfect example of a “culture of death”. But he was taught a lesson, after he killed two people and was sentenced to the death row; he met the person that would bring a “culture of life” to his life before his death. A “culture of life” is reflecting the image of God within us by imitating the perfect image of Jesus Christ, in loving God and one another. Sister Helen brought this culture and love to Matthew by loving him when everyone hated him. She applied retributive justice which focuses on restoring the good that has been harmed by criminal activity for the victims, the community, and the offender too, when he was been judged by the government with restorative justice which is the approach to criminal justice, in which the emphasis is on hurting the offender. At the end, her work paid off because Matthew apologized to Mr. Delacroix, the father of the person he killed and reconciliation was...
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