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Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

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Since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976, Harris County, Texas, has executed 126 people. That's more executions than every individual state in the union, barring Texas itself.
Harris County's executions account for 23 percent of the 545 people Texas has executed. On the national level, the state alone is responsible for more than a third of the 1,465 people put to death in the United States since 1976.
In 2017, however, the county known as the "death penalty capital of the world" and the "buckle of the American death belt" executed and sentenced to death a remarkable number of people: zero.
This is the first time since 1985 that Harris County did not execute any of its death row inmates, and the third year in a row it did not sentence anyone to capital punishment either.
The remarkable statistic reflects a shift the nation is seeing as a whole.
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also signifi…

Bali Nine prisoner Si Yi Chen reflects on his journey to Kerobokan prison

Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, Si Yi Chen and Matthew Norman in Denpasar District Court.
Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, Si Yi Chen and Matthew Norman in Denpasar Court.
Si Yi Chen was 20 when he was caught trafficking drugs as part of the Bali Nine. Now he's serving a life sentence in Kerobokan prison in Bali, unsure if he will ever step outside the prison walls.

When Chen was 12 he and his family left China and moved to Australia, where young Chen found himself learning a new language, embarrassed to speak for fear of being mocked for his accent.

"I was 12 and I have no English background so I learn everything from scratch. As you can hear, my accent is still Chinese accent," he said.

"And you're shy to talk to other people because you're scared of people laughing at you.

"And during our time is a lot of racial discrimination, it's like they would ask you to go back to your country … so yeah, you're actually scared to talk."

Before he was caught by officials in Bali, Chen said his younger self was "stubborn, [with a] huge ego … thinks he's the luckiest kid … because we always get away with troubles when we were young."

Chen described his family as a "typical, traditional Chinese style".

"It was like dad is the boss and my mum is the chef and I'm the only child, so they are really strict — but sometimes when they are too strict, you rebel against them," he said.

Chen said he started to push against his family's strict rule during high school.

They were not a wealthy family and he said they always had to work hard, which meant he was unable to go to the movies with friends or visit places like Wonderland during the holidays.

After high school Chen said he saw any further studying as a "waste of time and money", and inspired by Bill Gates — who dropped out of college — he decided to not go on to university.

"My parents, my dad wasn't accepting so we had an argument and then I moved out from the family … from him," he said.

"I started living by myself with my friends and then of course, you need money to survive.

'The school of life'


Chen said his father continues to blame himself for everything that happened.

"I try to be more of a Taoist … follow with the flow. Things are meant to be happen, it's inevitable," he said.

"So I try to tell him and persuade him, it's meant to happen because that could change me to become a better person and it's here — the school of life."

Chen continues to struggle with the knowledge that he could potentially be facing a lifetime within the walls of Kerobokan.

"I still, in my mind, think I might still get out and I might still be able to have a chance to get a reduction," he said.

Bali's Kerobokan Prison
Bali's Kerobokan Prison
Chen regularly meditates and practices tai chi, which he said was important to him as it was the only time he could find inner peace within the prison.

"Because that's when you are doing something for yourself, by yourself."

The loss of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran was difficult for Chen to deal with, and he described the bond they developed during their time together as "like a family".

"I feel guilt that I'm still alive and they're not and also feel disappointed and [it] also affected my mindset at that time, like, what's the point.

"We've already changed, that is what jail is all about, right? We rehabilitate people, you change people to become a better person.

Chen said if he ever managed to leave the prison, he planned to become a counsellor for young adults who "suffered the same experience as me".

"Because I'm the prime example of that, and then also teach kids nowadays to lower their ego — because I'm here because of my ego, I'm here because of my pride," he said.

The only chance Chen has to leave Kerobokan would be if he were granted clemency, so what would he say to President Joko Widodo if he had the chance?

"I would ask him [Joko Widodo] to be looking to the changes in our life, in our time in here. People can change, people deserve a second chance," Chen said.

➤ Click here to read the full article

Source: abc.net.au, August 1, 2017

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