With judicial, legislative or executive moratoriums on executions in place in at least eight states, March 1st, 2007, International Death Penalty Abolition Day, brings with it not only a celebration of the past but an indicator of the future. The death penalty in the United
States is on its way out.
Executions have been suspended, literally, from coast to coast, as Florida and California grapple with the question of how to prevent botched lethal injection executions. Other states have joined them in suspending executions: Arkansas, Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina and Tennessee. Indeed, more than one third of the nation's approximately 3,350 people on death rows across the U.S. are in states where a moratorium exists on carrying out the death penalty.
Abolition Day 2007 is the 160th anniversary of the date in 1847 when the State of Michigan officially became the first English-speaking territory in the world to abolish the death penalty.
"People in the United States are beginning to take a hard look at how our criminal justice system is failing," said Bill Pelke, Chairman of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and Founder of The Journey of Hope ...From Violence to Healing. "As a former
supporter of the death penalty who has lost a loved one to murder, I know that anyone who examines the system from a non-emotional standpoint will find that economically, socially and morally, the practice of the death penalty is bad public policy. Billions of
dollars have been spent on the deathpenalty in this country since 1972, for a net result of 1063
executions. This is hardly a good return on that investment. Alternatives to the death penalty exist that punish severely while protecting society, without more killing."
Organizers of "Abolition Day" events point to the State of Michigan as an example that viable alternatives to the death penalty exist. "They got rid of the death penalty because they found that they could not trust themselves to use it fairly, and they learned too late that they had killed an innocent man," said Pelke. Michigan has been without the death penalty for 160 years. The first act of their new legislature whenMichigan became a state was to abolish the death penalty.
"Politicians owe it to the people of this country to take a serious look at the alternatives to the death penalty already in use across this country," said Pelke. "Violent criminals can be punished, and society protected, through the use of long-term prison sentences before a convicted person can be considered for parole. It works in Michigan and in other states like California, which has the oldest 'Life Without Parole' (LWOP) statute in the country. Except for
those who have been exonerated, not one of the people sentenced to LWOP has been released. We are saying to the people of our country, 'Don't make us become that which we deplore. Don't kill in our names. We can do better.'"
FOR A LISTING OF SOME OF THE EVENTS SCHEDULED ACROSS THE UNITED
STATES, as well as background information on Abolition Day, please visit CUADP.org and click on the Abolition Day Banner.