See the article for an explanation of the doctrinal significance of this consensus. As I there noted, St. Robert Bellarmine is an especially important witness on this topic. For one thing, among all the Doctors, Bellarmine wrote the most systematically and at greatest length about how Christian principles apply within a modern political order, specifically.
Printer-friendly version Since the yearvictories claimed by death penalty abolitionists have seemed significant.
Georgia Supreme Court ruling in Subsequently, however, executions have been on the decline, with 39 inmates killed in Additionally, after peaking in with a death-row population of 3, there has been a reduction to 3, inmates awaiting execution, with a 62 percent decrease in new death sentences passed down between and Public support for the death penalty in in the United States remained around a year low of 63 percent.
Adding to the sense of optimism, Maryland abolished the death penalty inmaking it the sixth state in six years to do so, and raising the total number of states without the death penalty to 18 Death Penalty Information Center, DPIC.
However the tactics and frames through which anti-death penalty organizations sought to obtain their objectives in the late s and early s, which I witnessed as a community organizer, deserve attention.
In other words, those arguing against capital punishment have linked their arguments to human rights, to concerns about racism and unequal treatment of the poor, and to religious concerns about the sanctity of life.
These arguments, according to Haines and more recent scholarship by Jolie McLaughlin, have been unsuccessful because they have not sought to appeal to the rational self-interest of non-progressives.
And largely, the actions of key anti-death penalty organizations ADPOs indicate that they have philosophically sided with the analyses of McLaughlin and Haines. I make the case that recent advances in abolitionism should not be attributed primarily to this change in framing, and argue that the historical precedent for achieving progress in abolitionist sentiment in the United States is not predicated on a move to the right, but rather a move toward the left, and toward a paradigm of more radical economic and racial justice.
To obtain any type of significant change, the movement against the death penalty must be allied with a larger movement against mass incarceration that taps into the emotions of those individuals and communities whose lives have been most affected. Certainly, even today its funding is insufficient to run television campaigns or take out ads in prominent newspapers.
It has relied primarily on the efforts of volunteer activists, notably lawyers and clergy who have donated extensive amounts of time. With the hiring of full- and part-time staff, messaging could be honed, and the ears of politicians reached without demonstrations or legal actions in court.
Since the late s, the framing of the debate against capital punishment by these largely white, middle-class professionals has moved increasingly to adopt center-right rationales for abolition that fit congruently with conservative ideologies.
McLaughlin notes that arguments about cost were not used in the anti-death penalty movement until the late s. The understanding here of course is that life without parole is the default, unquestioned alternative.
Along with the framing of the death penalty as expensive, there has been a concomitant emphasis on it being ineffective and inefficient.
Inefficiency and costliness are entirely compatible with neoliberal discourses and conservative framing of the issue, and hence more likely to garner support from at least some segments of the right-leaning constituency.
The obvious conservatism of tacitly upholding the prison-industrial complex by siphoning money from state-sanctioned executions to fund other law enforcement endeavors is striking.
Haines goes so far in Against Capital Punishment as to suggest that abolitionists advocate for expanding the construction of prisons In Illinois, law enforcement programs have been directly granted resources that would have been allocated for the capital punishment system.
Key ADPOs have actively solicited the voices of law enforcement. Equal Justice USA, Death Penalty Focus, National Coalition to Abolish, and New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty amongst others have reached out extensively to this group, positing them as voices that are honored and respected and authoritative on issues of safety.
While such organizing amongst law enforcement may bring nontraditional bedfellows into the anti-death penalty movement, it does nothing to challenge and in fact, buttresses mass incarceration. ADPOs have not acknowledged the conflict that has existed between police and minority communities, as evidenced in extensively documented accounts of police brutality, racial profiling, and dehumanizing treatment of prisoners.
Innocence Using the possibility of executing innocent persons as a way of framing opposition to capital punishment is not entirely new to the anti-death penalty movement.
The controversial executions of Barbara Graham and Caryl Chessman brought the issue national attention in the s.
On the other, the beastly criminals, to whom anything can be done, since … they have placed themselves outside the boundaries of our humanity. Of course, the act of incarcerating an innocent human being is morally reprehensible and shocking.
Yet, a progressive message should not be that we should not have the death penalty because innocent people are killed. Even if the death penalty were to be percent error free, the right to take the life of one rendered defenseless must be beyond the reach of the state.
The second way in which focusing on innocence dovetails with conservative narratives is by appealing to the pro-life movement. While white conservatives are often staunchly anti-abortion, they are the least likely demographic group to oppose capital punishment.
This seeming paradox is reconciled and rationalized by those on the right by pointing to the idea that a fetus is innocent, untarnished life, whereas the life of the death-row inmate has been sullied with sin and therefore forfeit. In many of the states where we have won repeal, we are still working to meet this second goal.
Of course, the inclusion of voices of victims against capital punishment has the potential for a strong emotional and moral impact. And I am not suggesting that the voices of victims and their families should not be heard.The New York Times describe how "Year after year, homicide rates in states with the death penalty roughly mirrored the rates in states without capital punishment, with death penalty states 48 percent to percent higher." They also state how they looked into "contiguous and demographically similar states" such as Massachusetts ( per .
1, Faith Leaders Call for End to the Death Penalty. As the 1,th execution approaches, over 1, religious leaders from more than a dozen religious faiths have issued an open letter calling for an end to capital punishment in the United States.
Still, even as capital punishment has declined in both sentencing and practice, there were also signs this year of its persistence from lawmakers, judges and the public, reminders that the death penalty is far from fading away.
In addition, Jamaica has eliminated the mandatory death penalty in its laws—the only Jamaican law applying the death penalty is the Offenses Against the Person Act, and as of it reflects the JCPC’s decision in Watson v.
The Queen that the mandatory death penalty is unconstitutional in Jamaica. Herbert Haines’ excellent overview of abolitionist movements in the United States, Against Capital Punishment, emphasizes that from the beginnings of abolitionism following the American Revolution through the mids, the anti-death penalty movement had primarily tried to achieve its objectives through a “moralistic critique” .
"It is widely recognized that capital punishment in the United States of America continues to be imbued with the legacy of slavery" and, to end it, American death-penalty abolitionists "should draw on the radicalism of [anti-slavery] abolitionists." © Death Penalty Information Center.