Sometime yesterday afternoon, the phone rang here in the office. I was deep into “end of the year” financial stuff (my favorite) when Isaac told me I had a phone call. It was Sarah Craft, a friend from Equal Justice USA. Sarah quietly said, “Stacy, I have to tell you something.” “Yes,” I replied. She continued, “New Jersey just voted to abolish the death penalty.” Even though I knew the repeal was most likely going to happen, to actually hear those words…”Hallelujah,” I said, “Hallelujah!”
What a gift to the people of New Jersey this holiday season that lawmakers in that state were able to put emotion and politics aside and truly reflect on the facts concerning the death penalty. After the state conducted a thorough study of the system, much like the one Tennessee is currently conducting, the facts were clear.
The study found that there was no “fix” for the death penalty system. It found a deeply flawed policy that spent millions of dollars for no results. It found no deterrent effect and in fact, discovered that the system delays healing for the loved ones of murder victims. Furthermore, despite the safeguards, New Jersey lawmakers concluded that there is no way to guarantee that an innocent person will not be executed.
In the end, law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys, crime victims’ advocates, Democrats and Republicans all came together to say “enough is enough.” The death penalty did not serve the people of New Jersey nor does it serve the people of Tennessee. It does not make us safer and drains vital resources away from programs that actually do. My prayer this season is that Tennesseans will let their legislators know that this policy is broken and is not serving us. The people of Tennessee deserve better.
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