Warm Southern Breeze

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Candidates Differ on Death Penalty: @BernieSanders & @HillaryClinton

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Friday, October 30, 2015

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has long opposed Capital Punishment in the United States.

Speaking from the floor of the United States Senate Thursday, 29 October 2015, he said in part, “When we talk about criminal justice reform, I believe it is time for the United States of America to join almost every other Western, industrialized country on Earth in saying no to the death penalty.”

His Democratic contender Hillary Rodham Clinton has recently announced that she supports the Death Penalty.

Speaking in Manchester, New Hampshire Wednesday, 28 October 2015, she said in part, “I do not favor abolishing it, however, because I do think there are certain egregious cases that still deserve the consideration of the death penalty, but I’d like to see those be very limited and rare, as opposed to what we’ve seen in most states.”

For years, I waffled back & forth on the matter of whether to support, or disavow the death penalty.

I recall – as, perhaps do others – that Jesus the Christ was a victim of state-sponsored execution.

Nevertheless… years ago, when I shared my quandary with a minister friend, he finally helped me settle it once, and for all, when he said, “It’s too damn expensive.”

The costs of numerous mandatory appeals at every level, for the state and for the defendant (which costs are often borne by the state), and of interacting with the legal system in death penalty (capital) cases, far exceeds all associated costs of incarceration – including humane health care.

Consequently, it would be less expensive to keep someone in prison for the remainder or their natural life without the possibility of parole, and to provide humane healthcare, than it would to try a capital case.

Wanting to see some research on the matter, I turned to the USDOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, and found numerous cases in which it was true that Capital Punishment cases were more costly, and especially recall the matter of one tiny Texas town which was bankrupted by bearing the costs of one murder trial in which the defendant faced the death penalty.

Now, it should ALSO be borne in mind that prison populations and their costs have EXPLODED since the Reagan administration’s ill-fated “War on Drugs,” which as time is now telling us, has been an utter failure and wholesale fiasco. Many – if not most – arrests, trials and convictions have been for marijuana use and/or possession, while to a lesser degree, seriously harmful – even fatal – illicit drugs like heroin and methamphetamine remain scourges upon America. Enforcement of marijuana prohibition laws is like picking the low-lying fruit – it’s much too easy – although it remains an increasingly cost-prohibitive proposition.

What that means, is that it’s time for us as a nation, and in every state, to re-think the “wisdom” of so-called “Three Strikes” laws (that’s only a rule in baseball), mandatory sentencing guidelines, and other laws elevated to felony offense which serves only to pack prisons and burden taxpayers and resources. One such example was the sentencing disparity (now abolished by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010) which reflected gross inequity in punishment at the federal level for violations concerning crack cocaine & powder cocaine. The Congressional Budget Office wrote that, “CBO estimates that implementing S. 1789 would lead to reduced spending for the federal prison system totaling $42 million over the 2011-2015 period, assuming a reduction in the future amounts appropriated to that agency.

As well, the use of marijuana and all costs associated with violations of marijuana prohibition should be factored into the equation, and in my considered opinion, should be legalized, taxed and regulated by government in much the same manner as is beverage alcohol (ethanol). Presently, Colorado is enjoying an increase in tax revenues exceeding approximately $100 Million annually after that state legalized marijuana for medicinal and recreational use. The benefit (taxes and licenses ONLY) does not include associated reduced burdens and costs in the legal system (law enforcement, judicial, corrections, etc.), which doubtless are equally significant.

Presently, 23 states have legalized marijuana in some form, either for medicinal, or recreational use. Most notable among them are Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, which have all legalized marijuana for recreational use.

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