One story that doesn’t often get much attention is the death penalty. Today on the show, we decided to shine a spotlight on the quiet shift away from executing convicted criminals.
In just the last five years, five states have eliminated capital punishment: Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico and New Jersey.
For critics of capital punishment, this is good news. They have long charged that the death penalty often leads to the execution of innocent people, costs more than life sentences without parole (an Urban Institute study found that in Maryland an inmate on death row costs the government $2 million more than one who hasn’t been sentenced to death), and is often applied arbitrarily. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that analyzes the death penalty, a person is also far more likely to be sentenced to death if the victim is white.
But it’s unlikely capital punishment will disappear entirely, anytime soon. Sure, statistics point to a decline in the number of executions and the number of people sentenced to death row. But keep in mind, the states that are scrapping the death penalty rarely used it in the first place. Before repealing capital punishment in April, Connecticut used it just once since 1976. Texas, meanwhile, has executed five people this year alone, and 482 in the last 36 years. In fact, the south is disproportionately responsible for much of the nation’s executions. And those states have a Republican-leaning electorate that still believes the death penalty equals tough on crime and will likely not support any attempt to repeal it.
Take a look at Alex’s interview with Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy about how he sees the death penalty debate playing out.