• Yes: 9
  • No: 1

On Wednesday at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane a panel will discuss why the death penalty should be abolished in Washington.

Do you think there is a safe and just alternative to the death penalty?


  1. As someone who seeks to faithfully pursue a prolife ethic, I would like to see the phrase “economically sustainable” added to the question. I’ve worked a lot as a chaplain and volunteer minister in the local jails and the issue includes into economics.

  2. Kyle A. Franklin

    Eric–I would agree, but there have been multiple studies done that show the cost of an actual execution is enormous in comparison to life-imprisonment (because of the numerous appeals–even those instituted by outside people or organizations).

  3. Life imprisonment cost….food, shelter, entertainment, education, eye, mental, physical health care, etc vs appeals? I don’t think so.

    But, I’m not saying we execute based on cost but it should be a part of an honest evaluation of a position that will cost tax payers.

    Look at the increasing rise of incarceration, building prisons and jails and the expanding need for more and more in this country. Then there’s the whole issue of what we put people in jail for and should we be policing certain behaviors.

    The whole system is in need of massive reform. Just jailing people won’t be a sustainable option. Everyone says put them in jail but everybody wants those jails somewhere other than where they live.

  4. Eric, lets not conflate two separate issues.
    The rise in incarceration rates and costs of new prisons is not related to the death penalty. It’s a direct result of a combination of a misguided ‘war on drugs’ and a “get tough on crime” attitude. In the 1980′s most states abandoned any appearance of a treatment model and moved to an overwhelmingly retributive model for criminal systems. This attitude is one factor (obviously not the only factor) in police brutality. Identify suspects and prisoners as bad people who need to be punished, dehumanize them, and then it is easier to abuse them. And it has given us the highest incarceration rates in our history. We are spending way too much money imprisoning people who are not dangerous, as ‘punishment’ for their ‘crimes’.

    The question asked here is whether there is a safe and just alternative to the death penalty. As the death penalty is not just, the question itself is biased. There are more appropriate responses to dangerous people than the death penalty. As an adherent of the Christian tradition, I find the death penalty unacceptable. And any cost benefit analysis is immoral. We have the ability to separate the truly dangerous individuals from society and keep them from harming again. We do not need to execute them to accomplish this.

    A second, non-theological basis for abolishing the death penalty is that we do not have the ability to avoid executing innocent people. IT is just as wrong for the state to kill someone as it is for an individual. And as a former deputy prosecuting attorney, I can assure you that our court system is incapable of avoiding the execution of innocent people. It’s not just that we have, in the past, regrettably erred in a few cases (or some such white washing). Our system is incapable of avoiding those deaths. Since we can never know which deaths will be the innocent people (if we did we could avoid them) it is patently unjust to continue to impose the death penalty on anyone.

  5. Aaron Weidert

    “Life imprisonment cost….food, shelter, entertainment, education, eye, mental, physical health care, etc vs appeals? I don’t think so.”

    Actually, yes, as counterintuitive as that might sound. Just do a google search for the cost of the death penalty. The only real argument against that cost is over how much more expensive it is. The numbers vary quite a bit because there are a lot of factors involved, and it can be difficult to get all the data. But the cost of appeals, the cost of keeping a prisoner on Death Row (where they often spend decades, so you get to basically combine the cost of of the death penalty with the cost of life in prison), the cost of special witnesses and prosecution (essentially all the extra death penalty trial costs), etc., add up to quite a bit more than the cost of putting someone in prison for life. I remember once reading about a couple of small counties in California where they were trying to prove that murders had taken place somewhere else so they didn’t have to bear the cost of a death penalty case, which they were worried would bankrupt their county. And as Deb so accurately pointed out, we’re still sometimes getting it wrong and executing innocent people, which makes me wary of any arguments that we “fix” the process to make it cheaper. I don’t see how that would work in a way that wouldn’t increase that number.

  6. Wow, I’d hate to think we’d execute prisoners just because they’re somehow accounted as too expensive to the state. Talk about trading in bodies and souls.

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