Why haven’t we repealed the death penalty? After it was reinstated in Illinois in 1977, 20 human beings who were condemned to die by our judicial system were found to be innocent. We kill in the name of justice because we can.
If public safety is the prime concern, incarceration offers a nonlethal alternative that allows a revisit of cases, should questions arise at a later date. If punishment is the prime concern, our penal system is up to the task without taking lives. If restorative justice is at all a concern, then our capital punishment system fails us.
Hands off Cain is an Italian organization committed to abolition of the death penalty. They issued a report earlier this year that said there are 43 countries that still employ capital punishment. Of those, Hands off Cain calls 36 dictatorships, or authoritarian or illiberal regimes. Fifteen of those countries accounted for nearly 99 percent of the executions carried out by governments. China alone was responsible for 88 percent of the global total.
Only seven of the 43 countries that still carry out executions can be defined as liberal democracies. Of the seven, three carried out executions in 2009. The United States led the way with 52. Japan came in second with seven executions and Botswana put one person to death in 2009.
In the United States, the fight to repeal the death penalty is being carried out at the state level. A recent statewide poll showed majority support for repeal of the death penalty in Illinois. State senators Kimberly Lightford and Don Harmon and state representatives Karen Yarbrough, La Shawn Ford and Camille Lilly represent Oak Park in Springfield. All of them are working to end this costly cruelty. Now is the time.