ILLINOIS PRISON WATCH
Tuesday February 1, 2000 -- Rome, Italy
In honor of a decision by Illinois to impose a moratorium on executions, the lights at Rome's ancient Colosseum were lit up. Where gladiators once fought to the death is now the center of a worldwide campaign against the death penalty.
Throughout the year, whenever someone is spared execution, the lights illuminating the Colosseum will change from white to gold for a two-day period. The lights burned gold on Febrary 1st for the eighth time this year after Illinois Governor George Ryan's decision on March 31st to declare a moratorium.
Ryan called for a special panel to study the state's system of capital punishment, which he said was ``fraught with error.'' Thirteen inmates in Illinois have been freed or taken off death row since 1987. ``There is no margin for error when it comes to putting a person to death,'' Ryan said.
Like many other countries in Western Europe, Italy abolished capital punishment long ago. Italians have vigorously campaigned against the death penalty, adopting the causes of a number of death row prisoners in the United States.
Millions of people visit the Colosseum every year and organizers hope that using it as the centerpiece of the anti-death penalty campaign will help energize the movement. The campaign's sponsors include Amnesty International, the Vatican, the United Nations, the city of Rome, the Italian government, the Italian anti-death penalty group Hands off Cain, and the Rome-based Roman Catholic peace group Sant' Egidio.