Why would you, the average citizen who doesn’t know anyone on death row, care about repealing the death penalty? Honestly, it’s not an issue I have thought a great deal about until recently, despite the murder of my nephew many years ago. For my brother, the anguish and anger connected to that tragedy has never left him, yet he is firm in his belief that the death penalty makes no sense.
Currently, 23 states and Washington D.C. have repealed the death penalty for reasons shown below. Now Ohio has an opportunity to repeal the law with HB 183 and its equivalent SB 103. They were sponsored and cosponsored by representatives from both parties. However, our own elected officials — State Senator Frank Hoagland and House Representative Jay Edwards — have yet to sign on. At a time of deepening divisions in our state these bills give hope for bipartisan progress on this important issue. Let’s get our legislators on board!
Here are a few reasons to repeal the death penalty:
The majority of Ohioans recently surveyed supported abolishing the death penalty and replacing it with a lifetime sentence without the possibility of parole.
Our sympathy and need for justice resides with victim’s families, and many of them also oppose the death penalty. Restorative justice offers a more creative and healing approach.
We know that there are many factors that go into wrongful convictions and to execute an innocent inmate is a mistake that can never be resolved. There have been 186 death row inmates exonerated since 1973. The long haul to fight a conviction, takes enormous resources and time, which is often lacking for those who find themselves wrongfully convicted, especially when it comes to the death penalty.
Death penalty cases come at exorbitant costs to the criminal justice system. That money would be better served for prevention, and victim support. In 2018, Ohio was 46th out of 50 states in helping a mere 3.23% of those applying for the victim’s compensation fund.
The National Academy of Science concluded after reviewing numerous studies the death penalty has not lead to any increase in public safety. Indeed previously elected officials in Ohio such as former Governors Taft and Strickland have spoken of their own regret for executions carried out during their time in office and support abolishing the death penalty.
We cannot address racism by denying where it has intersected with our criminal justice system, especially when it comes to the death penalty. Jury selection alone speaks of the bias that happens during trials. Only a few states have established reforms around ensuring that the potential juror lists reflect the makeup of the community. A recent study in Hamilton County found that a Black defendant was three to five times more likely to receive a death sentence if the victim was white.
The death penalty is probably not a kitchen table topic in many of our households. As I became aware that traction is building on this repeal I began my own deeper dive into the debate and realized there is a great opportunity right now in Ohio to reach across the aisle and make a change most all of us can agree on.
If you feel so moved, please contact your representatives to urge their support for HB 183 and SB 103.
Retired RN, Athens