Later this month, the US will likely hit a gruesome milestone, the state-sanctioned killing of 1,500 of our fellow citizens since the death penalty was re-instated in 1976.
An estimated four per cent of those human beings we killed were innocent, with another 166 exonerees narrowly missing a wrongful execution.
Life for many of the 2,642 people currently on death row often started void of any love and compassion, instead filled with severe sexual, emotional and physical abuse. Many human beings on death row suffer from severe mental health issues, brain dysfunction and/or intellectual disability. No human enters into this world with a plan to commit a heinous crime, they are often pushed down this path through years of neglect, abuse and lack of care. Should we not be investing our taxpayer money in giving people chances in life so that all human beings get the love and care they need to thrive?
In cases where guilt can be proven beyond any doubt, I want to make it clear that I’m not condoning the crimes that have left families devastated at the loss of their loved ones. I am asking what gives us the right to kill another human being and perpetuate a culture of hate? What peace does another act of violence bring? And in some cases, can we really risk having the blood of an innocent person on the hands of all Americans?
Most countries – 142 in total – have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. The US stands out as one of the top executing countries in the world, ranking seventh.
Even when you take away the valid questions of innocence and morality, the death penalty still makes no sense:
- The death penalty is expensive. Even in conservative Louisiana, a death penalty case costs taxpayers at least $15.6M a year more than life without parole as the maximum sentence. Over the last 15 years, the state spent $200M to execute one human being and exonerate five.
- Threat of the death penalty doesn’t deter crime. On average, states with the death penalty have higher murder rates than states without.
- Deathrow prisoners typically spend more than a decade awaiting execution, with each appeal re-opening the wounds of victims’ families and stretching out their pain.
The death penalty has been on a steady decline over the last decade, from a high of 98 executions in 1999 to 25 in 2018. New Hampshire just became the 21st State to abolish the death penalty, and in Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado repeal has bipartisan support. California Governor Gavin Newsom just enacted a moratorium on executions for the duration of his term in office. But with thousands of men and women still facing execution, we need to step up our efforts.
We are better than this.
We can stand together across political divides and end this barbaric act. We can leave the infamous death penalty club and ensure we don’t have the blood of innocent people on our hands. We can also divest the hundreds of millions of dollars currently wasted on a broken and useless system and invest in solutions that prevent crime, give people opportunities and build an America we can all be proud of.
Join us and the millions of other American citizens who want to end the death penalty for good. Here are a few places to start:
- Support Death Penalty Action’s work to protest the US’ 1500th execution
- Support Equal Justice Initiative’s work on to end excessive punishment
- Take action with Witness to Innocence’s network of death row exonerees
- Get involved with one of the state-based advocacy groups or EJUSA’s work boosting solutions that will prevent violent crime