The U.S. federal government plans to execute four men on Death Row in the next few weeks, some 20 years after they committed their violent acts. Bill Barr initiated the process in 2019 before COVID-19, named for that year, changed life as we knew it. All four men have exhausted their appeals process. During their incarcerations, none of them threatened society or committed any further crimes.
Why do we punish? The standard justifications are: Deterrence, Revenge, Incapacitation, and Rehabilitation. However, we know from research that the death penalty does not deter murder. The convicts are not getting out of prison, so the goals of rehabilitation and incapacitation are mute. Revenge? At least one victim’s family is against the death penalty, so who is seeking revenge (a cold dessert, in any case)?
Most of the world’s societies believe that the death penalty has no place in the 21st century. Nevertheless, the U.S. government has fought not only to avoid limits on its right to kill adults but also to lower the age at which it can kill juveniles to as young as 11.
Now we are in the midst of a pandemic, and prisons are virus hot spots. The government, in its decision to subvert justice with hate and revenge, is putting lawyers, victim’s families, the families of the convicts, and prison staffs at risk of infection—just one more example of flawed social policy for the sake of scoring political points.