TV: “Death Penalty Does Not Work. It Makes Problems Worse. Let’s Abolish it.”

The February 2018 episode of “Glen’s Parallax Perspectives” TV series focuses on the death penalty.  Here is a summary.  See the end of this summary for a link to watch the program and a link to read the transcript.

The death penalty promises many things but does NOT deliver what it promises.  It does NOT deter murder, provide justice, help victims’ families, get used on “the worst of the worst,” or save money.

Instead of doing what it supposedly intends to do, the death penalty MAKES PROBLEMS WORSE and CAUSES MORE PROBLEMS.  It escalates the cycle of violence and the U.S.’s culture of violent punishment.  It is similar to the U.S.’s violent foreign policy.  Many innocent people are sentenced to death.  (From the mid-1970s through 2017, there were 161 persons on death row who turned out to be innocent!)  Some innocent persons have been executed.  The death penalty is biased by race and socioeconomic class and by mental disability.  It wastes taxpayers’ money.  Some people want to limit appeals, but that would cause even more innocent persons to be executed.

We can let go of the death penalty and still be safe.  Some people think we need the death penalty in order to be safe.  However, this fear assumes that the death penalty is commonly assigned to murder cases, and it assumes that the absence of the death penalty would leave a great void.  Both assumptions are FALSE.

Relatively few death sentences actually end up with executions.  In the modern era, Washington State has imposed dozens of death sentences but executed only 5 persons.  In Washington State and many other states the default sentence for that kind of murder case is “life without parole,” so we actually are not using the death penalty very much, even though we have wasted many millions of taxpayers’ dollars without the “payoff” of executing anyone.  The “life without parole” sentence is actually what typically happens here, even when death sentences have been imposed.

Here is a three-step strategy for abolishing the death penalty:

1.  Make the death penalty a hot issue that society absolutely must discuss seriously.

2.  Persuade a majority of public opinion that the death penalty is fatally flawed.  Undermine public support for the death penalty by showing that:

– It does NOT deliver what it promises, and

– It actually makes some problems worse and causes new problems.

3.  Provide alternatives that will meet the public desire for safety without resorting to the death penalty.  (The two paragraphs before this 3-point list summarizes this.)

The TV program ends with some suggestions for a winning strategy — and some sources of additional information.

Here is the link for watching the program:  Death Penalty program for February 2018

You can read the transcript at this link:  Death Penalty Fails its Promises — Causes More Problems Instead