Beyond Troy Davis: Why The U.S. Needs to Abolish the Death Penalty

The execution of Davis has opened the door for an opportunity to have a real dialogue about the use of death penalty in the United States. There are countless reasons why I believe the death penalty should be abolished in the U.S., but I’m going to focus on the three of which most Americans are likely unaware.

1. It costs more money to execute someone than it does to keep them in prison.

Numerous studies have shown that it costs more money to carry out an execution than to keep someone in prison for life without parole. The constitution requires a long and complex judicial process for capital cases, making it much more expensive to carry out. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, capital cases cost the state of Texas on average $2.3 million, which is three times the cost of imprisoning the highest security single cell inmate over the course of 40 years.

2. The U.S. is in bad company.

The United States ranks fifth in the world in the number of executions carried out annually - behind China, Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. A majority of countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice, and around three countries abolish the death penalty every year. This has been a source of tension between many of our closest allies who do not support the death penalty and continues to alienate us from the rest of the industrialized world.

3. The death penalty is racist.

Although African-Americans make up almost half of all homicide victims in the U.S., the overwhelming majority of death row defendants have been executed for killing white victims. According to Amnesty International, the victim’s race is the most reliable predictor of a defendant receiving the death penalty. Studies have also shown that prosecutors are more likely to seek the death penalty when the victim is white.

I have a hard time understanding why the majority of Americans still support the death penalty. Maybe they are simply uneducated about the real effects of this cruel and barbaric form of punishment (or maybe they have a fetish for vengeance). Although the possibility that Georgia executed an innocent man yesterday is a serious blow to our judicial system, the only hope is that Americans will take this opportunity to reevaluate their own personal values and challenge their leaders to abolish the death penalty once and for all.

Photo Credit: Evan Mascagni

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Evan Mascagni

Director & Producer, Toxic Profits (www.toxicprofitsfilm.com). Partner, Zero Bound (www.zerobound.com). Attorney, California Anti-SLAPP Project (www.casp.net). Legislative Assistant, Public Participation Project (www.anti-SLAPP.org).

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