There is No Time like the Present

17 Nov

Danielle By: Danielle Smith, MSW, MA, LSW

NASW Ohio Chapter Services Coordinator

In today’s Dayton Daily News an article (click here to read it) reported the results of a national survey conducted by the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. The study found that “almost two-thirds of registered voters support a form of punishment other than death penalty for murders (Beyerlein, 2010).” As an opponent of the death penalty, I was pleasantly surprised by the survey’s results as my assumption had been that the majority of Americans support the death penalty. The article goes on to state that “Ohio has executed eight men this year, the most in any one year since 1949, when 15 were put to death. Gov. Ted Strickland commuted three death sentences this year, including that of Sidney Cornwell on Monday…Ohio ranks second in executions in 2010 to Texas’ 17, with Alabama ranking third with five (Beyerlein, 2010)”

In the wake of the results of the survey I think that there is no time like the present to give considerable thought to placing a moratorium on the death penalty in the state of Ohio. If Ohio were to institute a moratorium on the death penalty we would join Wisconsin, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Maine, Washington, Georgia, North Dakota, Minnesota, West Virginia, Iowa, Vermont, Alaska, and Hawaii who have all instituted some level of moratorium (Amnesty International, 1998). Internationally, more than half of the countries in the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice (Amnesty International, 1998).

The death penalty is a clear violation of human rights and civil liberties due to the risk of executing innocent persons, its disproportionate sentencing on minority groups, and its unfairness to those who are developmentally unable to understand the implications of their behavior or cannot obtain proper counsel (NASW, 2008). In addition to these extraordinary human costs the death penalty is also costly. In death penalty cases there are years and years of appeals cases which carries a tremendous cost. The most comprehensive study found that the death penalty costs North Carolina $2.16 million more per execution than the cost of a non-death penalty murder case, with a sentence of imprisonment for life occurring at the trial level (Death Penalty Information Center, 2000). As our state struggles with its finances placing a moratorium on the death penalty would be a cost-savings measure.

As stated in the NASW Social Workers Speak, 2008 edition:

Social workers share the concerns of other citizens about the rise in violent crime. They are very aware of the terrible consequences to the families of victims of criminal homicide, and indeed, many social workers have personally experienced the anguish caused to their own families when a loved one is murdered. It is a premise of this policy statement, however, that punitive action by the state can never compensate for such losses and that the death penalty is neither a sufficient nor an acceptable solution to the problems caused by violent crime (p. 40).

So what are your thoughts? If you agree with me, how should NASW support a moratorium?

References:

Amnesty International. (1998).  United States of America: Rights for all. New York: Amnesty International Publications

Beyerlein, T. (2010) Survey: 2 out of 3 Americans against the death penalty.  Dayton Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.daytondailynews.com/news/survey-2-out-of-3-americans-against-the-death-penalty-1005591.html

Death Penalty Information Center. (200a, July). FBI uniform crime reports: Murder rates per 100,000 population [Online].  Available: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/murderrates.html

NASW. (2008). Social Work Speaks: Capital punishment and the death penalty. Washington, DC: NASW Press.

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