The Death Penalty

In July of 2020, President Trump reactivated capital punishment for federal crimes. This declaration was in spite of a lack of public support for the death penalty. There had not been a federal execution for 17 years, but he made up for lost time by executing more than three times as many as the federal government had put to death in the previous six decades.. Thirteen people have been executed in these few months, three during the lame duck period of his administration. For the first time in history the US government executed more citizens than did all states combined.

Twenty-two states do not have the death penalty. They are: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia.

An average of 3.5 prisoners on death-row have been proved innocent. Since 1976 more than 171 people have been exonerated. Those statistics alone should be enough to stop the death penalty in this country. The number of executions since 1976 is 1,531. How many of those people were innocent?

For more information on this subject see the website for the Death Penalty Information Center at: https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/state-and-federal-info/state-by-state

Thorough statistics are available at DPIC Fact Sheet at: https://documents.deathpenaltyinfo.org/pdf/FactSheet.pdf

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According to the ACLU which obtained documentation through the Freedom of Information Act, the first two months that the death penalty was re-instituted the expenses were over $4.7 million. This included all expenses for staff brought in from other federal prisons so they could learn how to carry out lethal injection. I was surprised to learn that the federal government pays all expenses for victims’ families to travel by air to witness the execution. In addition their hotels and food are covered as well as any expenses while they are in town. Other expenses include security for protestors who gather at the time of the execution.

“The Second Grave”

“The Second Grave” by Carl Wedekind

Attorney Wedekind writes about violence in Kentucky’s history beginning in 1742 and through the end of the twentieth century. His purpose is to demonstrate that as the state has transitioned from the days of lynchings, duels and family feuds abolishing capital punishment should naturally follow.

The reasons most often given in favor of the death penalty are:

  1. Executions will deter murder by others in the future
  2. Society’s sense of justice demands executions
  3. Victim’s families loss and grief requires executions for justice and closure
  4. It is a waste of taxpayers’ money to keep a murderer locked up for life with free room and board
  5. Rehabilitation of a murderer is unlikely or impossible

The author addresses each of these and gives both examples and statistics to disprove each. He is for the abolishment of capital punishment and presents a strong case.

Because this book is dated (copyright 1999) I started to not review it here, but after more thought I changed my mind. It is still relevant to the discussion of capital punishment and the history of Kentucky is similar to that of other states. The truths apply universally and over time.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject of capital punishment whether for or against. It will also be of interest to any Kentuckian.

Corrections 3

Murder

I ask you to think about this terrible word, one that strikes fear in most of us. Can you imagine living near a murderer? What about having a person convicted of murder as a friend or family member? Should those who have committed murder ever get out of prison? Should they even be allowed to live? Can a person who has committed murder ever be a worthwhile citizen?

These are serious questions and ones we casually ponder at different points in our lives. It might be when a well-publicized murder takes place or when the circumstances are more unforgettable or perhaps when it has been geographically close to us. Today when probably none of those situations are present, let’s answer the hard questions.

  1. Do you support Capital punishment? I never have. During my studies of the criminal justice system over the past several weeks I did not change my mind on this matter.
  2. Do you believe in a sentence of life without the possibility of parole? As a result of these classes, reading, and research, I have changed my mind and no longer believe that this should be a punishment. If there is no incentive for release where is the incentive for rehabilitation? It’s not “corrections.” It’s not “criminal justice.” It is simply punishment.

3. Have you ever been mad or afraid enough to take the life of another person? I cannot say that I have, but I can imagine how this happens. I believe that a good person can do terrible things under certain circumstances and that they, even murderers, can change. It is worth noting that murder has one of the lowest recidivism rates of all crime categories.

I’m not going to go into great detail, but one day in class two men who had been convicted of murder were our guest speakers. Each had committed their crime while very young and each served over twenty years before receiving parole. Both concentrated on getting an education while in prison and they have used those degrees to find work since released. What’s more, both work now to help others in the prison system and their families. They spoke of their crimes, took full responsibility and voiced their regret. I would welcome either as next door neighbors.

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“Why do we incarcerate? Are we afraid or angry?”  Mark Bolton, Corrections Director, Louisville, KY

The SOURCE of most of the information of the past two posts is a class at Bellarmine University taught by Gaye Holman, Author, “Decades Behind Bars: A Twenty-year Conversation with Men in America’s Prisons.” Today’s post is mostly my personal opinion. 

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