[Marcy is tending bar for Glenn Greenwald today over at Salon and has a wonderful piece on John Brennan and resultant bad policy in the Obama Administration. Please give her a visit – bmaz]
Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom (England), and even Venezuela. What do all these developed first order modern countries have in common?
They abolished the death penalty. Conspicuously absent of course is the United States. We are the only country in the Americas, whether North or South, that utilizes the death penalty in anything other than declared war exceptional circumstances. The conspicuousness of the US on the world death penalty map is chilling in terms of who we are aligned with in our beliefs; and it isn’t what might be referred to as the enlightened group of nations.
What is the purpose of the death penalty in a modern society at this point? Sure isn’t deterrence. In an article in the Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, Dr. Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia University writes,
There is no reliable, scientifically sound evidence that [shows that executions] can exert a deterrent effect…. These flaws and omissions in a body of scientific evidence render it unreliable as a basis for law or policy that generate life-and-death decisions. To accept it uncritically invites errors that have the most severe human costs.
In accord are John Donnohue and Justin Wolfers in an article entitled "The Death Penalty: No Evidence for Deterrence", where the authors conclude claims that the death penalty saves lives and acts as a deterrent "are simply not credible." Are there studies to the contrary? Yes, and they are debunked in the above studies and evaluations, as well as in any number of others.
It is not for purposes of financial efficiency either; the death penalty is hideously expensive for the states and nation. When I first began my legal career, the data consistently showed that litigating and executing death penalty cases, as opposed to non-capital punishment treatment (including life imprisonment), was severely more expensive. That is still the case. From the CSM:
This year, state budgetary crises have given death penalty opponents their most successful argument yet – money.
Administering the death penalty is breathtakingly expensive. Contrary to popular opinion, it costs substantially more to execute people than to send them to prison for the rest of their lives.
In California, which houses the nation’s largest death row, it costs about $137 million annually to maintain the state’s death penalty system. The state has conducted only Read more