A recent Gallup poll showed that the U.S. is losing its taste for capital punishment. Make no mistake: A majority of Americans are still in favor of state-sponsored homicide, but the 60% of people who claimed that they approve of capital punishment is an all-time low. Year after year, the death penalty is falling out of favor in this country. One segment of the population that is growing in opposition of the death penalty are those who have conservative values.
The poll stated that 81% of Republicans support capital punishment, but even that number was lower than it has been in the past. An important part of the change in the conservative and libertarian response to the death penalty is young people. The Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), an organization started by the youth coordinator of the presidential campaign of Ron Paul, the Republican Congressman from Texas, is a partner of Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty (CCATDP). In addition to the partnership with YAL, CCATDP attended the Young Republican National Federation’s Convention in Alabama.
Just last week, Kansas Republican Chase Blasi published an editorial explaining why capital punishment is counter to conservative positions. Blasi, a city councilperson and board member of the Kansas Young Republicans, laid out the argument stating why Kansas should repeal the death penalty in the next legislative session based on conservative values.
He started by explaining that capital punishment is another failed government program. He is correct in his assessment — the U.S. is awfully bad at running the system that leads to the ultimate punishment. A study published by Columbia University titled "A Broken System" showed that 68% of capital cases over a 22-year period were reversed. Given the outrage about the HealthCare.gov website not working, it is a wonder why states are not constantly trying to understand why there are so many mistakes in capital cases.
Blasi goes on to discuss the astronomical costs of the death penalty. In his home state of Kansas, it costs 70% more to try a case capitally, and Kansas is not the only state where costs for the death penalty are excessive. In the cash-strapped state of California, $4 billion more was spent for the capital system than if life without parole was the worst punishment given. It is important to note that life without parole is permanent imprisonment, which means that an inmate will die in prison.
Blasi continued that capital costs would be lower if the process worked faster. In fact, this past year, Florida passed the Timely Justice Act in order to speed up executions. Blasi noted that speeding up executions also accelerates the opportunity for the state to execute an innocent person. Since 1973, 143 people have been exonerated from death rows across the country. Interestingly, the state that has the most exonerees is Florida — 24 innocent men have left Florida’s death row because of wrongful convictions.
The last point Blasi makes is that conservatives have to be consistent with their message of protecting life. While this may be a point where people with other political philosophies may diverge, it is a conservative value and reasonable minds can disagree.
While some of the strongest advocates against capital punishment are murder victims’ family members, it is great to have young conservatives on board to end the expensive, dysfunctional, and dangerous scourge of capital punishment.