Oklahoma | I went inside death row, what I saw made me sick - Henry McLeish

The evolution of civilised behaviour, indicating a retreat from barbarism, has become a distinctive feature of most modern western democracies, but America often disappoints, retaining practices that shock, sadden, and in my case, nearly made me physically sick.
My visit to death row at McAlester State Penitentiary, Oklahoma, brought home to me, how the final setting for government sponsored killings, combined with execution by lethal injection, brought a brutal end to lives. And made a mockery of the idea of justice, offering instead a violent, humiliating, and inhuman act of revenge, with no serious pretence that any of these end of life dramas, provide any deterrence in criminal justice terms. Formerly known as “Indian Territory”, and home of the Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma, with a population of over 4 million, became a state in 1907. Located in America’s “Bible” belt, where there is a strong fundamentalist Christian tradition and powerful Republican politics, Oklahoma remains a pro…

Washington state: Proposed bills would eliminate death penalty

Bills proposed by lawmakers that would eliminate the death penalty in Washington state were referred to committee Monday.

Both House Bill 1504 and its companion Senate Bill, SB5372, were referred to respective law and judicial committees. If passed, the joint bill would put a stop to all state-ordered executions and make the maximum penalty for a crime lifetime incarceration.

State Reps. Reven Carlyle, D-Seattle, Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines, and Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, were 3 of the 15 sponsors of the house bill. They released a statement in support of the bill Tuesday, saying "that life has value and that the death penalty is below us as a civilized society."

"We believe the death penalty is immoral, unfairly implemented and appeals to society's most violent instincts rather than love and compassion," the statement read.

Supporters of the bill argued putting an end to capital punishment saved the state millions of dollars in judicial costs accrued through a convict's appeal process. The state spends far more in the appeals process for death row inmates than lifetime incarceration, state legislators said.

A report released in 2011 showed the state spent an average of $1.2 million on death penalty cases, versus an average of $89,000 for cases involving life without parole.

Though bills eliminating the death penalty have failed previously failed in the state legislature, lawmakers supporting the bill may hope a national shift in attitude regarding the punishment could spur dialogue.

A recent PEW Research Center study showed the majority of the public still supports the death penalty, with 62 % in favor and 30 % opposed. However, the numbers have narrowed considerably since 1996, when 78 % of the population supported capital punishment.

"As we weep in pain for victims of horrific, unimaginable crimes, we also hope and pray that one day our state will join a community of states and nations to eliminate this unwise policy," co-sponsors of the bill said in a statement.

It is unknown if House Judiciary Committee or Senate Law and Justice Committee will hear the bills. If hearings take place, there will be a later meeting to vote on the bill in committee before going to a floor vote.

Washington state has executed 5 people since 1976. There are 7 individuals on death row.

Source: q13fox.com, January 29, 2013

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