In the past few weeks, Edgemont’s Amnesty Club has been expanding our horizons by initiating a collective effort to spread awareness on important social justice issues. Just recently, we paired up with Scarsdale High school’s Amnesty to organize a meeting with speaker Scott Langley, a human rights organizer and activist, to learn more about the death penalty and why it should be abolished. Langley educated and enlightened us on the very prevalent and very upsetting problems surrounding the death penalty.
These problems are more significant now than ever due to America’s current events. For example, in the last six months of his presidency, Donald Trump executed 13 death row prisoners at an unprecedented rate. These executions mobilized people to take action and speak out against the death penalty. There are so many issues regarding the death penalty, starting with the fact that it is a violation of human rights; no one should ever have the authority to pick and choose who should live and who should die.
The most significant issue with the death penalty is that it is deeply tied to racism. Many statistics demonstrate that the justice system works against the black community. For instance, looking at the race of defendants executed, we see that about 34% are black, but Black people only make up 13% of the U.S. population. Indeed, as the Washington Post cited, even after adjusting for differences in the rate of crime, the U.S. justice system still more stiffly punishes African-Americans. According to the American Civil Liberty Union’s website, people of color faced 43% of total executions since 1976 and now comprise 55% of those awaiting execution.
Not only does the death penalty target the Black community, but it also targets poor and, consequently, vulnerable people. Since poor people can’t afford their own attorneys, they are forced to accept ones given to them by the state. Unfortunately, these attorneys can be inadequate or inexperienced, which unfairly puts those requiring state -mandated attorneys at a disadvantage.
What’s more, there exists scant evidence that the capital punishment works. It fails to diminish crime rates, and it is also very expensive due to the multiple trials frequently necessary to sentence a prisoner to death. Another major issue is that sentencing someone to death doesn't bring back their victim. Not only that, but the death penalty has a huge error rate. For every eight people executed on death row, one person is innocent. If someone’s innocence is discovered after the execution, there is nothing that can be done. However, if someone’s innocence is discovered during a life sentence, they still have the opportunity to be exonerated.
People may claim that the death penalty is “okay” because other countries use it as a form of justice. However, 70% of countries have abolished the death penalty. Ironically, third world countries and countries that are often seen as “backwards” don’t have the death penalty.
“I am so happy that Edgemont Amnesty members were included in such an important event. I learned a lot about why the death penalty is unjust and why it should be abolished.”
Scott Langley educated and enhanced the Amnesty Club’s understanding of why the death
penalty is fundamentally flawed. The club’s special events coordinator, Isha Bahadur, enthuses, “I am so happy that Edgemont Amnesty members were included in such an important event. I learned a lot about why the death penalty is unjust and why it should be abolished.” Discussions are an important first step in reform. Not only did Langley enlighten us, but he also provided us with some websites that allow us to partake in the joint effort of abolishing the death penalty. Everyone engages in the role of educating themselves and becoming part of the solution. The sites are listed here: www.deathpenaltyinfo.org, www.deathpenaltyaction.org, www.amnestyusa.org/abolish.