A Cautious Man
January 02, 2007
Could You Pull That Switch Yourself, Sir
The New Jersey Death Penalty Study Commission issued its report today.

Its findings are stated directly and simply, and need no commentary:
(1) There is no compelling evidence that the New Jersey death penalty rationally serves a legitimate penological intent.

(2) The costs of the death penalty are greater than the costs of life in prison without parole, but it is not possible to measure these costs with any degree of precision.

(3) There is increasing evidence that the death penalty is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency.

(4) The available data do not support a finding of invidious racial bias in the application of the death penalty in New Jersey.

(5) Abolition of the death penalty will eliminate the risk of disproportionality in capital sentencing.

(6) The penological interest in executing a small number of persons guilty of murder is not sufficiently compelling to justify the risk of making an irreversible mistake.

(7) The alternative of life imprisonment in a maximum security institution without the possibility of parole would sufficiently ensure public safety and address other legitimate social and penological interests, including the interests of the families of murder victims.

(8) Sufficient funds should be dedicated to ensure adequate services and advocacy for the families of murder victims.
And the recommendation?
The Commission recommends that the death penalty in New Jersey be abolished and replaced with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, to be served in a maximum security facility. The Commission also recommends that any cost savings resulting from the abolition of the death penalty be used for benefits and services for survivors of victims of homicide.

The whole report is at this link (note: file is a .PDF).

It brings to mind the words from a song by Steve Earle, Billy Austin:
Now my waitin's over
As the final hour drags by
I ain't about to tell you
That I don't deserve to die
But there's twenty-seven men here
Mostly black, brown and poor
Most of em are guilty
Who are you to say for sure?

So when the preacher comes to get me
And they shave off all my hair
Could you take that long walk with me
Knowing hell is waitin' there
Could you pull that switch yourself sir
With a sure and steady hand
Could you still tell youself sir
That you're better than I am?

Now it's up to the ordinary citizens, to tell their legislators to make it so. And to tell the ones who oppose abolishing the death penalty, that they are simply wrong.



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