On Cities for Life Day, which falls annually on November 30, we recognize the right of every human being to live. The day, observed by cities around the world, commemorates the first abolishment of the death penalty. The concept of the abolishment of capital punishment was first mentioned in a 1764 treatise written by Cesare Beccaria, in which he argued against the death penalty as punishment.
History of Cities for Life Day
There is one thing no force on earth can take away from each of us, and that is our right to live. That was, however, not the case in our justice system, when the death penalty was established. This brash criminal punishment is as old as human civilization and was more popular than we would like to admit.
That was until Cesare Beccaria, one of the greatest European Enlightenment writers of the time had something to say about it. He is noted for his masterpiece on criminal law and the reform system, “On Crimes and Punishments”, which he published in 1764. In fact, the work is so notable that it has been translated into 22 languages.
In it, Beccaria put forth some of the first modern arguments against the death penalty, which made it the first full-scale work to tackle criminal reform and to suggest that criminal justice should comply with rational principles. Beccaria also argued against torture, believing it was cruel and unnecessary to treat another human being in such a way.
As a consequence, Grand Duchy of Tuscany in Italy became the first pre-unitarian state to abolish the death penalty on November 30, 1786, under the reign of Pietro Leopold II. This made Tuscany the first civil state in the world to do away with torture and capital punishment.
In 2002, in memory of this anniversary, the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Christian organization, began promoting the Cities for Life Day worldwide with the support of international human rights organizations. Since then, the death penalty has become less and less common in the world at large.
Cities for Life Day timeline
The first full-scale work to tackle criminal reform, “On Crimes and Punishments” by Cesare Beccaria, is published.
André Morellet produces a French translation of “On Crimes and Punishments”, which was later even more popular.
Grand Duchy of Tuscany in Italy becomes the first pre-unitarian state to abolish the death penalty.
The Community of Sant’Egidio begins promoting Cities for Life Day globally.
Cities for Life Day FAQs
What is capital punishment?
Capital punishment is a state-sanctioned practice of putting a person to death as a punishment for a crime.
What crimes would result in capital punishment?
Capital punishment can be imposed for treason, espionage, murder, large-scale drug trafficking, or attempted murder of a witness, juror, or court officer in certain cases.
What are the types of capital punishment?
In the 27 U.S. states where capital punishment is authorized, five different methods of execution are prescribed: Lethal injection, electrocution, lethal gas, firing squad, and hanging. All jurisdictions provide for execution by lethal injection.
How To Observe Cities for Life Day
Light a candle
On this day, participating cities illuminate a symbolic monument, such as the Atomium in Brussels, the Colosseum in Rome, and the Plaza de Santa Ana in Madrid. Pay your respects by joining in and lighting a candle from the comfort of your home, in honor of the souls that have passed, and to show your support for the cause.
Learn about the criminal reform system
There are so many things to be learned concerning the criminal law and reform system. Spend the day doing your research, digging deep into the justice system to learn how far we’ve come, and how far we still need to go.
Spread the word
If you are part of the justice system in any way, use this day to spread the word of enlightenment and change. If you aren’t, you can still give your two cents, or do your research and document your findings.
5 Facts About The Death Penalty That Will Blow Your Mind
It’s legal in 27 states
As of March 24, 2021, capital punishment is still legal in 27 U.S. states.
America is ranked fifth for execution numbers
The U.S. takes a spot behind China, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia for the most executions in the world as of 2019, sitting ahead of Yemen and Sudan.
60% of adults are in support
Six in 10 U.S. adults strongly or somewhat favor the death penalty for convicted murderers.
Death sentences have decreased
There was a 29% decline of people on death row between 2000 and 2019, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).
Criminals were sentenced based on crimes
In the past, methods of execution included electrocution, crucifixion, hanging, beheading, etc. and they were chosen based on the severity of the crime.
Why Cities for Life Day is Important
Life is a human right
The right to live is simply human. It is unjust to put the power to kill someone in someone else’s hands, regardless of the crime.
Fairness in the justice system
A day like this aims to create a level playing field for all, including criminals. There have been several executions that didn’t match with the severity of the crimes committed or were even based on false accusations. Some people would even propose that death is an easier punishment, and all criminals should serve due time for their crimes.
Memory of lost souls
Cities for Life Day also serves as a time to honor the souls that have been lost from the inhumane act of execution. Loved ones can remember those lost today, and it gives us all an opportunity to pay our respects.
Cities for Life Day dates