The Death Penalty
We’ve learned a lot about the death penalty in the last 40 years. For four decades, we have tinkered with the death penalty in an effort to make it fair, accurate, and effective. Yet the system continues to fail.
The risk of executing an innocent person is real. The DNA era has given us irrefutable proof that our criminal justice system sentences innocent people to die. Evidence we once thought reliable like eyewitness identification is not always accurate. DNA evidence has led to hundreds of exonerations, but it isn’t available in most cases. Despite our best intentions, human beings simply can’t be right 100% of the time. And when a life is on the line, one mistake is one too many. Innocence read more ››
Fairness in the death penalty is a moving target. We expect justice to be blind. Otherwise it’s not justice at all. Yet poor defendants sentenced to die have been represented by attorneys who were drunk, asleep, or completely inexperienced. Geography and race often determine who lives and dies, and after 40 years we have not found a way to make the system less arbitrary. Every effort to fix the system just makes it more complex – not more fair. Fairness read more ›› or Race read more ››
The complicated process drains our resources. The death penalty is longer and more complicated because a life is on the line – shortcuts could mean an irreversible mistake. For this reason, the death penalty costs millions more dollars than alternatives – before a single appeal is even filed. The time spent pursuing one capital case could solve and prosecute scores of other non-capital cases, improving public safety and ensuring that more of the people responsible for violent acts are held accountable. Cost read more ›› or Public safety read more ››
The death penalty fails families of murder victims. The longer process prolongs pain for homicide survivors, forcing them to relive their trauma as courts repeat trials and hearings trying to get it right. Most cases result in a life sentence in the end anyway – but only after the family has suffered years of uncertainty. To be meaningful, justice should be swift and sure – but the death penalty is just the opposite. Victims’ families read more ››
Americans are ready. The mounting evidence of waste, inaccuracy, and bias has shattered public confidence in the criminal justice system. Death sentences are at an all-time low and public support for the death penalty has plummeted. Across the country, states are reconsidering their death penalty statutes. The death penalty is dying. Americans are ready to see it go.
Crime Survivors and Trauma
Crime survivors are not getting what they need. Our justice system assumes that the primary needs of crime survivors involve punishment of the person who harmed them. Yet the vast majority of crime survivors’ needs have nothing to do with what happens to the person who harmed them. Victim services read more ››
Unaddressed trauma is furthering the cycle of violence and incarceration. Exposure to violence can cause posttraumatic stress and other trauma-related mental health issues. Unaddressed trauma can impact education, employment, family relationships, and can even be passed down through generations. While most trauma survivors never go on to commit violence, numerous studies have found high rates of unaddressed trauma among those who do commit crimes. “Hurt people hurt people,” as the adage goes. Trauma read more››