As of Friday, you’ve executed 1,000 people since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977. Now there’s something to be proud of.
Texas leads the way, accounting for almost 1/3 of these executions (check out this handy visual). In the same time period, 122 people were exonerated, and freed from death row — meaning that for every eight people executed, one death row inmate was found innocent. That isn’t a great track record.
The fact that the death penalty has undoubtedly led to the execution of innocent people is deeply troubling, and a good argument for getting rid of it. But what about people about whose guilt there is no doubt? Suppose Saddam Hussein could be tried in a U.S. court for the crimes he committed against the Iraqi people. There is absolutely no doubt that Hussein was a brutal murderer. Regardless of one’s views on the war, few people actually believe that he’s an innocent man. Are we still against the death penalty when there is no real question of guilt?
I think, as a civilized society, we must be. The death penalty is simply unjustifiable. It’s not a deterrant to crime. It’s not a defense mechanism — it could just as easily be replaced by life in prison without parole, eliminating the possibility of dangerous criminals re-offending. It doesn’t even save money — keeping a prisoner on death row and executing them is more costly than a lifetime jail sentence.
And beyond all that, a government should not have the punitive power to execute its citizens, even the very worst of them.
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