I wrote about this on my old blog a lot because I was working on capital punishment as a project for an Ethics class. For some reason today this topic popped into my head again and I wanted to address it.
I did extensive research into this topic last semester for class and I learned a lot of interesting statistics in regards to Capital Punishment. Here are some of the things I recall off of the top of my head without having to go look at my old blog:
1. The U.S. is one of the few countries who still have a capital punishment justice system. Some of the others are China, Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq. Generally, foreign countries who have abolished this system of punishment consider Americans barbaric and cruel.
2. It is statistically proven that a woman can commit the exact same crime as a man and become imprisoned for the same crime, however the man is more likely to receive a death penalty ruling than a woman.
3. Minorities in the U.S. are given death row sentences more often than Caucasian people even when similar crimes are committed.
4. People who are poor are given the death penalty more often than any other group of people regardless of race.
5. Regardless of the crime, if you plead guilty to the crime, you are more likely to receive life without parole rather than the death penalty in order to save the state money.
6. It costs LESS money to keep someone alive and in the prison system than it does to execute them.
My thoughts on this in the order listed above:
I could honestly care less what other countries think about how we deal with criminals. In fact it makes me want to scream at people, especially people from countries whose civil rights have been so stripped from them that they can barely walk down the street without committing a crime, when they have the nerve to tell us capital punishment is wrong. On the flip side of that coin, I do not like being in the same category of countries as Iran, Iraq, and Libya given that those countries and areas are known for constantly being in a state of war and strife.
As far as points 2-4, I am truly saddened and sickened by the hypocrisy and lack of standardization in our criminal justice system. I studied Arkansas in particular for this case, and there were women who are in prison for more violent crimes, or multiple violent crimes and not a single one was on death row. Not one. However, at the time of my research there were 28 or so men. Does that seem right to you? There was a particular women who had 3 counts of capital murder and who was in prison for life without parole. There were many men who were on death row for one count of capital murder.
There were more African American men on death row in this state than any other race. However, Caucasian men came in second, and those of Latin decent were last, I don’t even think they made up 1% of the population on death row. The overall standard for all of these people across the country is poverty. Death row inmates are more likely to be people from poverty.
We could look at this in a number of different ways. Perhaps they commit crimes to try and live given their economic status. Perhaps they were assigned some pea-brained half wit public defender right out of law school. Perhaps they were raised in violence and committing violent acts is common place in their lives or environment. Regardless, the poor in our country are sitting on death row, while people with money have been convicted of violent crimes and are now walking around free after serving minimal sentences. There is something seriously wrong with that.
#5- If you plead guilty to a crime you can usually cut a deal and get life without parole. I thought our legal system used the law “Innocent until PROVEN guilty”. I thought we had a right to a fair and speedy trial. I did not think that at the prospect of saving money the state would bully someone into a confession by promising them their life, instead of threatening to take it away if the person goes to trial to defend himself which is HIS LEGAL RIGHT. People have been proven innocent after spending the majority of their lives in jail. Why would the legal system try to force someone to confess?
#6- It does actually cost less money to keep someone in the prison system alive rather than going through appeal after appeal after appeal to fight the death penalty. I don’t remember the numbers off of the top of my head at the moment, but there was a HUGE monetary savings by NOT putting a person on death row and just keeping them in the prison system.
What this means to me overall is that if the U.S. is going to continue with a Capital Punishment system it needs a serious revamp. Someone who is poor should not go to death row just for being poor, and a rich person should not walk away just because he has a better lawyer or the funds to stall for time. If a women can murder just as easily as a man, the woman should be subjected to the exact same punishment as a man, and lastly if a white person commits the same crime as any other race, the punishment should fit and a minority should not be punished in a harsher manner than a white person.
We should not be persuaded to give up our innocence (OK, I will even bend and say potential innocence) in order to keep our lives. Telling a person they will get the death penalty if they don’t confess is nothing other than coercion. I personally feel like if there is not DNA evidence that PROVES without a DOUBT that the person committed the crime, then the death penalty should not even be an option.
We need a suspension of this practice until our criminal justice system gets a serious overhaul.