Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty
Our work continues to be urgent. In the past month alone, there was a federal execution on the same day that another man was released from death row because of evidence of his innocence.
Last month, we joined the Rehumanize Conference for their first virtual event. You can stream the recording of the panel we were featured on here.
Recently, we hosted a national press conference to address the looming state budgetary crises leaders across our nation are facing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We know the death penalty is a huge financial waste that fails to make communities safer and contributes to fewer crimes being solved. As states struggle to fund essential services, it is an obvious cut that should be first to go. You can stream video from the event here.
The Trump administration continues to tout its record on criminal justice reform while carrying out the undeniably flawed federal death penalty. Federal executions have marched on for the first time in 17 years, even as the most active death penalty states have paused their systems as they work to address a global pandemic. Trump is severely out of step with where most Americans are on this issue, including conservatives, and seems to be stuck in a 1980’s mentality. Read further here.
#Rehumanize 2020 Panel: Police, Prisons, and the Death Penalty
Herb Geraghty is joined by Miea Walker of Forward Justice, Hannah Cox of Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty, Abraham Bonowitz of Death Penalty Action, and Zuri Davis of Reason Magazine in an insightful panel discussion about prisons, police, and the death penalty.
Pandemic-ravaged state budgets face unavoidable cuts. Some GOP Lawmakers want to start with the death penalty by Hannah Cox
As states across the country grapple with the fiscal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, some Republican state lawmakers are calling for the death penalty to be one of the first budget items to be cut.
Republican lawmakers from three states held an online news conference to discuss why they believe now is the time to end capital punishment in their states. It was moderated by Hannah Cox, National Manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.
The news conference included: – Ohio Representative Niraj Antani, R-Miami Township – Georgia Representative Brett Harrell, R-Snellville – Wyoming Representative Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne
“These Republican leaders recognize the death penalty wastes millions of dollars each year while failing to provide improved public safety outcomes,” Cox said. “As states are struggling to fund the most basic of needs, this is an obvious cut. Dozens of GOP state lawmakers have sponsored death penalty repeal bills this year because it is so costly, ineffective, error-prone, and does not value life.” Watch the press conference:
State budgets face unavoidable cuts. Some GOP Lawmakers want to start with the death penalty. Virtual News Conference of Thursday, August 13, 2020.
Trump Stuck in '80s 'Tough on Crime' and That Executions Work. president trump combatting violent crime operation legend
U.S. President Donald Trump arrives for an event about 'Operation Legend: Combating Violent Crime in American Cities' in the East Room of the White House July 22, 2020 in Washington, D.C.
For the first time in 17 years, the country has begun carrying out executions at the federal level. A lot has changed during that time.
Across the nation, new death sentences have plummeted more than 60%, as prosecutors seek— and juries opt for — different sentences.
Twenty-two states have ended the death penalty all together, and three more have officially halted all executions.
And a majority of Americans now say they prefer a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Not only that.
Conservatives are leading the death penalty repeal movement across the country.
In the past 18 months alone, more than 75 Republicans sponsored bills to repeal the death penalty across 13 states.
For two years in a row, a state has passed such legislation with significant conservative support, and top right-wing names — from George Will to Michelle Malkin — have come out against the penalty.
So, what gives?
How is the Trump administration so far out of step with the public on this one?
And why, at the height of a global pandemic and civil unrest (in large part due to problems in our justice system), do they think now is the right time to resume killing American citizens?
Truth be told, Trump has always been behind the times on this policy — even stating during his campaign days that he would like to see the penalty expanded and applied to nonviolent offenders like drug dealers.
While the majority of the western world has moved on from this antiquated and ineffective system (the U.S. is the only western country where it remains legal), our country continues to hang onto this expensive relic that amounts to little more than security theater.
And make no mistake, it is security theater.
The death penalty is not a deterrent.
The debate has been settled on that point for years.
In fact, regions that abandon it continue to see their crime rates hold steady or even decrease, while the few that still use it consistently see higher rates of violence.
There’s a pretty obvious reason for these statistics. The death penalty is extraordinarily expensive, costing as much as 10 times more than its alternatives.
Counties that waste that kind of money on a penalty that fails to deter crime create tremendous vacuums inside their justice system.
That’s money and resources not being spent on solving more crimes, and it’s money not being spent on programs proven to actually prevent violence.
We know that the most effective deterrent to criminality is the belief that one will be apprehended.
Yet, under the current system, solvency rates for crimes are abysmal, with homicides hovering around 60% and other offenses falling far short of even that measly number.
Given these factors, there’s an easy argument to be made that the death penalty actually makes us less safe.
This is information that is readily available, if you’re looking for it. But, myths around the death penalty’s effectiveness are pervasive.
Many people still genuinely believe that capital punishment is a deterrent, that it saves taxpayer dollars, and that victims’ families want it.
Even over the past month, victims' family members (who happen to be supporters of Trump) have spoken out to the contrary and implored the administration not to carry out the executions. So we return to the original question — why are they doing this?
Increasingly, I’m asked to guess at the motivations for these actions.
The juxtaposition of an administration resuming executions shortly after touting and passing one of the largest criminal justice reform bills in history is jarring.
How can one look at the system, recognize the frequency of wrongful convictions, the arbitrariness in sentencing, and the inherent bias involved with doling out terms and still come away thinking this system should have the power of life and death?
It isn’t a new juxtaposition. Shortly after issuing clemency to a first-time, nonviolent offender, Alice Johnson, who was incarcerated for her participation in drug trafficking, Trump actually called for an expansion of the death penalty for people with similar crimes to Johnson.
It seems Trump is stuck in the 1980’s when people genuinely believed "tough on crime" policies like the death penalty resulted in safer communities and less violence.
I think he actually thinks the death penalty works, and that by carrying out these executions the country will return to law and order.
It is understandable to have once been misinformed about the realities of the death penalty.
I count myself in that club. It is not excusable, however, to ignore the four decades worth of data we now have, proving how utterly wrong our former notions on crime prevention really were.
They say an old dog can’t learn new tricks.
In the 1990’s, Trump was taking out full page ads advocating for the death penalty for five young black teenagers that we now know were innocent of the crime for which they were accused.
Rather than learn from that experience and proceed with more caution and humility, Trump has instead doubled down in his support for a system that has seen one person exonerated for every nine executions.
His motivations for carrying out executions might be misinformed, but that doesn’t make them excusable.
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