As Amnesty International puts it well, “The death penalty is the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights”, and by abolishing it, “a cycle of violence with economic and racial bias and tainted by human error” would be stopped.
In May this year, the state of Nebraska decided to abolish the death penalty, which makes it the first Republican-controlled state in the last forty years to make this step, and the first state to do so after Maryland where it was abolished in 2013.
The Governor of Nebraska (who is a Republican) was strongly opposing this abolishment, arguing that it would make the criminals believe that the state is “soft on crime”, but the bill passed thanks to the 32:15 difference in votes.
Currently, there are 19 states that abolished the death penalty and 31 still sentencing people to death. Slowly America is moving forward and putting an end to capital punishment.
The reason why abolishment of capital punishment was even considered doesn’t have much to do with those who need to be punished, but with the harm that this penalty brings to the values of the nation and the damage it does to the nation’s belief that all people will be treated equally and have the chance to prove their innocence, especially since there have been many innocent persons who were sentenced to death and only later found innocent for the crime they were punished for.
Seeing that this death penalty system is broken and not fair, elected officials in Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Mexico and Maryland – followed now by Nebraska, decided to do something about it and put an end to death penalty.
In 2008, the Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson ended capital punishment by signing the bill. Even though Richardson was a supporter of capital punishment, he noticed that at the time 130 people sentenced to death all over America were proven innocent and decided that his opinion doesn’t have much relevance in the matter, and above all, his confidence in the justice system was lost.
Led by the same realization, four years later the Governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, also abolished capital punishment.
Currently, 56% of Americans are pro-death penalty.
Fortunately, the number of death sentences declined from 315 in 1996 to 73 in 2014, which is the lowest number of people on death row since 1976. A law professor at Columbia University, James S. Liebman, says that less than a quarter of the U.S. actually uses death penalty, and even though it hasn’t been abolished in many states yet, it isn’t used as a law enforcement method any more.
As a replacement for death penalty, Americans consider that life sentence without parole would be right. But this isn’t exactly the best solution either. Twenty percent of all the world’s prisoners are Americans, in American jails, which means that over 2 million people are in jail.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), one in 99 adults in the U.S. is in jail, which is the highest imprisonment rate in American history, and since 1970 the American prison population has risen 700%. No wonder America is called the world’s largest jailer. But this justice system isn’t fair either, as more than 60% of all prisoners are either black or ethnic minorities. Moreover, those who are less fortunate and unable to pay an expensive defense lawyer usually end up in jail as it is less important if you’re innocent or guilty and more how you’re defended. That is why most people who are innocent agree to plead guilty so they would get a lighter sentence.
The criminal justice system is still corrupted, abusive and discriminating.
Evidence is being planted or hidden, perjuries committed and sneaky tricks during trials are used so certain people would be incarcerated. People stopped believing in justice a long time ago, especially considering the fact that 4.1% of people sentenced to death were innocent (and probably many more, whose innocence didn’t come to light).
By abolishing capital punishment, at least people won’t die for the crimes they didn’t commit, and hopefully the rest of the justice system will improve as well.