Voting to put an end the death penalty

Voting to put an end the death penalty November 8, 2016
Image: Public Domain
Image: Public Domain

Election Day is always about more than just the presidency or congress. Today, in three states, residents are voting on death penalty bills. California is voting to ban the practice, Nebraska is voting to reinstate it, and Oklahoma is voting to amend the state’s constitution to give the state the power to execute prisoners.

California also has a competing ballot measure that would expedite the process. If they both pass, the measure with the most “yes” votes will win.

In all cases, the death penalty must be stopped, or in the case of Nebraska, the constitution should not be amended. In fact, the US itself needs to repeal the entire law allowing state executions. The government should not be in the business of death.

Neither candidate running for president supports repealing the barbaric act.

I am against capital punishment, in all cases, all the time. Period.

Capital punishment is barbaric and it is beneath us as a civilization. I see it as a mark of shame on our nation that we still use and enforce the practice that almost all other industrialized nations have abandoned.

In 2014, the top five countries that executed its own citizens are:

1 China
2 Iran
3 Saudi Arabia
4 Iraq
5 United States

(Chart of others, by year at the bottom of this article)

Take a good hard look at that list. As Americans we condemn the four counties listed above us for their treatment of citizens, we call them barbaric and yet there we are, taking part in one of the most heinous acts known to man; state-funded murder.

We believe if a government hands down a death sentence it is somehow justified, somehow it is different than if someone on the street makes the same decision. We feel if it is our government, it is okay. We will criticize, as we should when a foreign government wants to kill one of their own for breaking their laws, but we do not apply the same critical thinking when it is our own country.

We make up justifications, claiming that evil men should not have the privilege of being alive, or that taxpayers should not have to foot the bill to keep murders fed and housed (Though the death penalty ends up costing taxpayers much more money). Then we continue on with our day acting as though our country has the moral authority around the world.

According to The Economist, the world is moving away from capital punishment,

At the end of 2014, 98 countries had abolished the death penalty, compared with 59 countries in 1995. The number of countries carrying out executions has halved. Last year at least 607 people were executed in 22 countries, 22% fewer than in 2013, according to Amnesty International, a human-rights organisation. In America, one of only two rich countries alongside Japan to practice the death penalty, fewer executions were carried out in 2014 than in recent years.

Country after country is abandoning capital punishment, what is taking the US so long? Why do we look on as the world progresses and moves forward and we sit here and watch one of our own states bring back the firing squad?

The death penalty clearly doesn’t work. Retired police officer Tim Dees noted in a piece for Forbes that,

The death penalty does not act as a deterrent any better than other punishments. If it did, death penalty states would have lower rates of murder than non-death penalty states. This is not the case.

The death penalty is also prone to human failure and in the US, we have one too many times executed a later exonerated inmate or have time and time again released innocent men and women from death row.

One of the main reason I am against the death penalty falls directly in line with the International Commission Against the Death Penalty,

The death penalty violates the right to life which happens to be the most basic of all human rights. It also violates the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. Furthermore, the death penalty undermines human dignity which is inherent to every human being.

Simply put, I am a humanist and I am not going to be responsible for taking another person’s life.

Or to quote the poet-priest John Donne who said in 1623, “Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind.”

The time is now to end capital punishment.

Below is the chart provided by The Economist and constructed using data from Amnesty International.

 

20150404_gdc731
Click to enlarge

(Large portions previously posted)

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