A recent op-ed in The Washington Post written by nationally syndicated columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. praises Connecticut for moving in a progressive direction by abolishing the death penalty.
Dionne points out how much of a shift there has been in both attitudes about and political focus on the death penalty since the 80’s and 90’s. It is no longer a hot-button issue in elections and a Gallup survey taken last fall revealed that support for the death penalty was at 61 percent, down from its peak of 80 percent in 1994. He attributes this drop to the decline in crime rates, the concern over executing innocent people, and the increase in Libertarians and “pro-lifers” who are opposed to capital punishment.
However, he goes on to argue that although the climate has changed, it still requires courage for a politician to put an end to the death penalty. When Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy signed the repeal bill into law two weeks ago, a poll found that 62 percent of voters in his state still favored executions and 51 percent disapproved of the legislature passing repeal. At the same time though, when the question was framed in a different way and voters were given the option of what punishment they prefer for people convicted of murder, either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole, only 46 percent favored the death penalty.
As more of the public comes to understand that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent and that there are alternatives that can still provide for public safety, hopefully other states will follow suit and vote to repeal.
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