Rethinking The Death Penalty Debate

My parents’ generation is accustomed to thinking of America’s ongoing death penalty debate in terms of tough on crime conservative republicans pitted against socially progressive liberal democrats, but those categories are increasingly obsolete given the use of the death penalty in the criminal justice system: it’s just another inefficient government program.

Americans of all political persuasions should shudder at the fact that that, to date, 142 people have been placed on death row, only to be released following the discovery of evidence that proved they were wrongfully convicted. No doubt, the emergence of DNA evidence has played a key role, but the fact is this level of scientific proof is available in only a small percentage of capital cases. The risk of taking even one innocent life should be unacceptable in a nation founded on the principles of liberty.

Even more questions are raised when there are charges of prosecutorial misconduct, such as the recent case brought against a Texas prosecutor who is accused of withholding evidence in a death penalty trial. It’s happened before and it will likely happen again, given human nature. The potential for government abuse and error are real.

The government’s power to kill its own citizens is also not needed when we have the means, as we do today with super max prisons, to protect society from the worst of the worst among us. However, instead of locking up these criminals and throwing away the key, we pay for a death penalty system that costs far more with long expensive trials and endless appeals that are court-mandated to guard against mistakes.

Limiting the reach of an inept government is a high priority for young conservatives and libertarians. “I used to support the death penalty, but I oppose it now. It gives the state too much power,” said Julie Borowski, the CPAC Award-winning libertarian blogger, humorist, and political commentator.

“I first supported the death penalty until I found out how many innocent individuals were being killed and how costly it was on the taxpayers,” said Jeff Frazee, Executive Director of YAL. “In a free and just society, we should always strive to protect life, most especially all innocent life. And, ultimately, it costs the taxpayers more to put a man to death than keeping him locked up for life. So after studying the issue, I now strongly oppose the death penalty.”

The death penalty does not measure up to the principles of young conservatives and libertarians, and that’s why the youth of the liberty movement are bringing new voices to this age old debate. Innocent lives are at stake, while money and time are being wasted, and we’ve had enough.

Marc Hyden is a national advocacy coordinator for Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. Hyden has previously worked for the NRA, numerous GOP campaigns, and as an aide to the Georgia State Senate President Pro Tempore.

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