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Illinois is right to abolish the death penalty

March 9, 2011 - Andrea Johnson
Illinois has officially abolished the death penalty, joining North Dakota and 13 other states where it is not practiced. I wish every other state in the union would follow suit.

The United States is in dubious company with its endorsement of the death penalty. We join countries such as China and Saudi Arabia, none of them countries most Americans would consider terribly enlightened, though our policies are similar. Until recently this country even allowed the execution of people who were under age 18 when they committed the crimes. We still allow life sentences without the possibility of parole for teenage offenders, which I find only slightly less appalling. No other western country has the death penalty or punishes children as harshly.

The death penalty isn't an effective deterrent either, since people continue to commit crimes even knowing the possible penalty. The possibility of executing an innocent man or woman is always there. This was one of the reasons Illinois' governor cited when abolishing his state's death penalty statute. The death penalty is applied more often to minority offenders than to whites, a clear example of an unequal justice system. People who can afford a decent lawyer are more likely to get a lighter sentence than a poor defendant who must make do with an overworked public defender. A life sentence still protects the public from a violent offender and probably costs less in the long run since a death penalty case costs the state more money.

I also have personal reasons for opposing the death penalty, including religious and moral convictions and sheer distaste for the very idea of the state killing someone in my name. I've always been proud that North Dakota is one of the few states in the country that does not have the death penalty. I hope we never will.


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