Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Illinois strikes down death penalty

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Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signing death penalty ban
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signing death penalty ban

And the Garden of the West becomes the 22nd state* to back away from deciding who gets to live or die:

Gov. Pat Quinn today signed into law a historic ban on the death penalty in Illinois and commuted the sentences of 15 Death Row inmates to life without parole.

Quinn signed the legislation in his Capitol office surrounded by longtime opponents of capital punishment in a state where flaws in the process led to the exoneration of numerous people sentenced to death.

As far as I’ve heard, the only rational argument in support of capital punishment (ie. one that doesn’t rely on the hideous “eye for an eye” principle, which seems to be a part of about 90% of proponents’ tactics) is that it helps decrease the number of prisoners in the United States’ dangerously bloated penal system, to the point where edifices are routinely forced to hold over three times as many convicts as they were built to. So culling some of the more dangerous and incorrigible recidivists would indeed lighten the load, if only a little.

But the problems with this sort of thinking become readily apparent once one factors in the reality that over half of the US’s current inmates are only serving time because they were caught using illicit substances on their own time and dime, without otherwise exhibiting the remotest violent or criminal tendencies. If the US Government stopped throwing innocents behind bars because of what they choose to do to their own bodies, then we wouldn’t have people calling for the death penalty as a barbaric solution to a problem that exists solely due to incompetence and greed.

(via @BreakingNews)

* As far as I can tell from these confusing stats.