Rerun: The Death Penalty

The Trump administration’s reinstatement of the death penalty prompted me to resurrect a series of posts from last year. I remain unalterably opposed to state killing.

On July 25, 2019, Attorney General William Barr, presumably with the agreement of and perhaps on the orders of President Trump, reinstated the death penalty for federal crimes after 16 years of no executions. The federal government also scheduled the execution of five death row inmates. The Supreme Court then upheld a stay on these executions, but a few days ago reversed course. Three executions have been carried out.

The question before us, as Americans, is do we wish to execute? My answer is no for the following reasons:

Research evidence makes it clear that capital punishment does not deter murderers. According to Amnesty International, “Scientists agree, by an overwhelming majority, that the death penalty has no deterrent effect.  .  .  .  States without the death penalty continue to have significantly lower murder rates than those that retain capital punishment.”

Besides, it costs far more to inflict the death penalty than incarceration for life does. The Death Penalty Information Center argues that “the average cost of a case without capital punishment involved is $740,000. For cases where the death penalty is sought by prosecutors, the average cost of the case is $1.26 million. In addition to the prosecution expenses, the cost of housing a prisoner on death row is $90,000 more per year, on average, then a prisoner in the general population. With the average length of time on death row at 15 years in the United States, housing a prisoner for execution may cost more than $1 million more than housing a prisoner for a life sentence.”

More tomorrow.

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