We should resist efforts to restore the death penalty in Wisconsin, and work to end it elsewhereWhen it comes to the death penalty, Wisconsin has stood against it for over a century and a half. And rightfully so.
Evidence continues to surface that some felons who were put to death may have been wrongly convicted. Their innocence could have exonerated them in life, but once punished there is nothing that can be done to restore justice.
There have been a few attempts to bring the death penalty back to Wisconsin in recent years, which was abolished in 1853, our state being the second in the nation to end the practice.
An advisory referendum brought before the people in 2006 found that 55 percent of voters supported capital punishment. Yet, in the fall of 2013, a Marquette Law Poll (PDF) found that 50.5 percent of the state disapproved of reinstituting the death penalty. Only 46.6 percent wanted it back, effectively reversing the findings of the 2006 referendum.
Restoring the death penalty would be the wrong route to take: capital punishment, while granting certain satisfaction to the citizenry, sends the wrong message and creates a litany of bureaucratic nightmares.
If murder is so wrong, why is the state permitted to commit it? Why should we encourage a system that says “do as I say, not as I do” when it comes to capital crimes?
Capital punishment doesn’t serve as a deterrent to crimes either. In 2011, states with the death penalty in place saw an average murder rate of about 4.89 per 100,000 citizens. States without the death penalty, on the other hand, saw a rate that was 18 percent lower, at 4.13 per 100,000. In fact, in the 20 years preceding 2011, states without the death penalty saw lower rates of homicide than those with it in practice.
So why do we allow it to continue? We know that people are being put to death who don’t deserve to be. We know that the states without the death penalty have much lower homicide levels. And we know that the capital punishment system is more expensive to keep in place than to incarcerate.
We ought to resist efforts in Wisconsin to reinstate the death penalty, and work to abolish the practice nationally. It serves no practical purpose, especially when innocents continue to die as a result.