Oct. 10 is celebrated as World Day Against the Death Penalty, and the good news is that the death penalty is being abolished both around the world and in our nation.
In 1977, only 16 countries had outlawed the procedure for all crimes. As of December 2009, 134 countries have ended the death penalty in law or in practice. In the U.S. the trend toward abolition is also continuing. Four states in the last four years have ended the use of the death penalty by judicial or legislative action, including New York and New Jersey in 2007, New Mexico in 2009 and Illinois in 2011. Presently three other states also have legislation pending to repeal their death penalty statutes.
Utahns favor abolition of the death penalty for a variety of reasons. Faith communities oppose the practice based on their belief that killing is immoral and violates the sanctity of life. Others with experience in the criminal justice system know that the death penalty costs taxpayers far more than having life without parole as the maximum sentence. Many in the criminal justice system also oppose capital punishment because it is so rarely effective in achieving executions and because it diverts limited resources from more effective crime prevention and detection activities such as having more officers on the street and funding drug abuse prevention and treatment efforts.
Capital punishment costs too much and takes too long. Life without the possibility of parole is the best alternative to the death penalty. It works effectively both to punish offenders and to protect society at a fraction of the cost of the death penalty system. It is faster, cheaper and serves the needs of victims' families better than the death penalty because cases are resolved much more quickly and without lengthy appeals.
It is time for our state to join the world in ending this ineffective and costly practice.
Director of Utahns for Alternatives to the Death Penalty