Time to junk broken system

Via the Helena IR:
We have the opportunity to get rid of a failure. An unjust, expensive, broken system. Can we do it? Can we get rid of the death penalty in Montana — a justice system that isn’t just, that doesn’t accomplish what it’s supposed to, and that ultimately steals resources from other worthy endeavors in our communities?
Now is the time. Let’s get rid of the death penalty in Montana:
– Because it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. The death penalty doesn’t deter crime. In fact, states without the death penalty have lower murder rates than those who have it. (Montana’s murder rate is 2.9 per 100,000 people, while North Dakota, without the death penalty, has a murder rate of 0.5 per 100,000.)
– Because mistakes will be made. It’s a human system, subject to all the human failings that we bring to whatever we do, and executions can’t be undone. People complain about our government, from the legislature to the judicial system, and yet we entrust this same government with power to legally take lives. Human beings are not worthy of this trust. That people continue to be exonerated from death row in America demonstrates that flaws in the system are more than theoretical, they are a glaring reality. Who are we in Montana to think that we are above such mistakes?
– Because it isn’t applied fairly. A serial killer gets life in prison while a mentally ill person gets the death penalty. A white murderer gets life while a black murderer gets death. Minorities, the poor, and those who get poor defense all are in greater jeopardy of receiving a capital sentence than whites, the well off, and those who can get good legal counsel. The death penalty simply isn’t applied fairly; it’s a justice system that’s not just.
– Because it prolongs the pain of the victim’s families. The death penalty doesn’t bring closure to the families of victims. Instead, the appeals process does the opposite: the crime is continually brought up again and again, undermining the ability for families to move on.
– Because it’s a waste of resources. Capital cases are phenomenally expensive. Flathead County is considering the death penalty in the Christmas Day killings and could well spend millions in an attempt to execute one killer. Truly, that crime was heinous and the accused shows no remorse. But how can we justify the expense of such justice in the face of all the pressing needs in our society?
There’s a better way. We have an alternative: life without the possibility of parole. It protects society. It’s far less expensive. It spares the families of the victims. It denies the perpetrators the media coverage that inevitably comes about with each new appeal. And we can all move on.
We don’t need to spend millions in the attempt to execute a single person. We don’t need to execute people in order to have a just society. We don’t need a system that fails to deter crime, that isn’t used fairly, that prolongs the pain of victim’s families, and that wastes our tax dollars. It’s time to give up on the failure that is the death penalty. It’s time to abolish it.
Matt Randles is the pastor at Headwaters Covenant Church in Helena.