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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Anti-death penalty movement gains speed

Death. For most of us it’s considered a far-off topic, one not generally mentioned in everyday conversation. For death row inmates, however, it creeps closer and closer with every passing minute, regardless of their guilt or innocence.

In mid-March Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn made a courageous decision to sign the bill opposing the death penalty, making Illinois the 16th state to outlaw capital punishment. His decision was absolutely right.

Earlier in March, President Obama praised Quinn for his actions. As a state lawmaker, Obama was against expanding the death penalty to gang-related crimes. He also was a force in the death penalty reforms in 2003.

The controversy over the death penalty has been debated over for decades.

It is argued that death penalty costs less than life incarceration. Killing people for the sake of saving money is never justified. Either way, the fact is false, for death penalty does not cost less.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, capital punishment ends up costing more than lifetime in prison. For instance, in Texas, the death penalty costs $2.3 million per execution on average due to the long and intense judicial processes needed for the capital punishment. This is three times more expensive than a 40-year imprisonment of someone at the highest security level.

One of the most powerful arguments against the death penalty is the occurrence of wrongful executions of innocent people. Not everyone who is convicted is necessarily guilty, for mistakes do occur. According to US News, for every seven executions, one other death row prisoner is found to be innocent.

“We’ve seen guys exonerated after 30 years with DNA,” said former Illinois death row inmate Randy Steidi, who was convicted but later exonerated. “If he was on death row, he wouldn’t have had 30 years to have that DNA test. That’s why people need to open their eyes and realize you can’t have an irreversible system when you know full well innocent people go to prison.”

With only life in prison as the highest penalty, if someone was found innocent, he or she could just be released; with death penalty, however, it might be be too late. At least 20 people have been exonerated from Illinois death row in the past, including Anthony Porter, who actually came within
48 hours of his execution before his release.

Steidi and other anti-death row activists now plan on taking their arguments to other states, starting with Montana, which is considering a similar law. As for Illinois, the newly passed law will begin to take effect July 1.

How this will affect the governor’s political career in the long run is unknown. Families of victims and other pro-death penalty advocates have already started criticizing Quinn’s decision.

While there is a movement toward a more humane form of execution, people have to look at the
wording itself. Is execution and killing ever humane? Is it ever going to be humane? The answer is a resounding “no.”

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