Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bill Richardson signs bill repealing the death penalty

Bill Richard, governor of New Mexico, signed a bill repealing the death penalty. Good for him.

I had two internships in Washington, DC, during college, opposing the death penalty. I interned at Amnesty International and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. It was my original political cause.

I have long been of the opinion that contemporary support for the death penalty in America is a historical anomaly, and that it will fade over time. I think it is a response to the 60's, particularly the race riots and the challenge to traditional authority. The 60's were a chaotic time; the death penalty is the ultimate reinstatement of "order." The "war on drugs" has, of course, exacerbated the situation.

The death penalty is not about justice or crime prevention; it's about vengeance and punishment.

One of the things that I had to do during my internship at the NCADP was fact-check the number of executions in the history of America (including before we were the "United States"). At the time, in the late 1980's, it was about 15,000. My guess is that it's above 16,000 now. That's a lot of death.

Props to Bill Richardson for doing the right thing. It's one big step towards a more enlightened America.

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