The National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) met last month as part of the annual conference of the National Conference of State Legislators. One of the items on their agenda was a resolution calling for an end to the death penalty. Though they had originally planned to take up the measure at their meeting in December, they agreed that it was past time to take a stand on the “civil rights issue of our time,” as one member put it.
The resolution was overwhelmingly approved with bipartisan support. “After carefully reviewing the clear evidence of anti-Latino bias in the application of the death penalty, the high costs of death row to tax payers, and the ineffectiveness of capital punishment in reducing crime,” the NHCSL said in a statement, “Latino lawmakers called on Congress, and all states and localities to immediately repeal the death penalty.”
EJUSA has been working with members of the NHCSL as they considered the resolution. In her press statement, the lead sponsor urged her colleagues to work with us for nationwide repeal.
“I encourage all states to follow the example of New Jersey in eliminating the death penalty,” said sponsor and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, D-New Jersey, “and I look forward to working to eliminate it throughout the United States with the help of other advocates such as Equal Justice USA.”
Supporters of the resolution included those from both death penalty states and non-death penalty states.
“Studies show that nationwide, Latinos are imprisoned at a rate 1.4 times the rate of whites, and that white juries are more likely to sentence a Latino defendant to death,” read the resolution. Nationally, Latinos are murdered at twice the rate of white people, but less than 7% of victims in pending death penalty cases are Latino.
NHCSL is a non-partisan group made up of almost 400 Hispanic legislators from around the United States, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Earlier this year, EJUSA also worked with the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, a coalition of 40 prominent Latino organizations, which called for an end to the death penalty in their annual policy agenda. It was the first time they included criminal justice reform in their priorities, and groups like Latino Justice, MALDEF, and LULAC, who have longtime positions against the death penalty applauded the focus on the issue.