On Nov. 16, the Death Penalty Information Center released the results of one of the most comprehensive studies ever conducted of Americans’ views on the death penalty. Out of the 1,500 voters who were polled, a clear majority of voters (61%) would choose a punishment other than the death penalty for murder, including life with no possibility of parole and with restitution to the victim’s family (39%), life with no possibility of parole (13%), or life with the possibility of parole (9%).
And, in states that have the death penalty, a plurality of voters said that a politician’s support of repeal of the death penalty would make no difference in how they voted; and a majority (62%) said either it would make no difference (38%) or they would be more likely to vote for such a representative (24%).
This poll reflects the growing concern in this country about the administration of the death penalty, particularly the unfairness, the cost, and the real risk of executing the innocent. When given the option of life without parole, more Americans are deciding that this sentence is a viable alternative to the death penalty that can hold offenders accountable, keep society safe, save money, and remove the risk of wrongful executions.
When our elected officials understand that they can be for policies that are “smart on crime” and not just “tough on crime” without losing their seats, things will change. Those of us who believe that there are better, smarter ways of preventing violent crime, supporting victims’ families, and holding offenders accountable than the death penalty must educate our lawmakers, giving them the room they need to learn about the issue and make the choice for repeal.
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