Friday, June 1, 2012

Question:  How does geography play a role in America's continous use of the death penalty? How do state and local issues, values, and circumstances affect whether or not a state adopts pro or anti-death penalty legislation?

In response to this question, I found the chart that listed the various states and the distribution of death penalty convictions and executions very helpful.  However, I took a different stance than many of the other opinions I read on various classmate's blogs.  Although there is no denying that the south has a considerably higher percentage and amount of convictions and executions, I do not believe the reason to be correlated with a rural vs. urban environment.  Texas stands out as the toughest state in the union.  While it is true that Texas is a huge state with many rural and conservative areas, the majority of the crime and convictions come from the big cities of Houston, Dallas, Fort-Worth, and the border areas.  Therefore, I am convinced that the social structures and poverty of cities has much more to do with rates of death penalty cases then a belief that racist, bible thumping, and confederate yokels are conspiring to murder black and Latino men.  However, I do not deny that there are people like that out there, but the good old days of mob justice and lynchings in the rural south are thankfully over.  

Growing up in the Northeastern states of P.A. and N.J, I witnessed much higher levels of crime then what I have seen in Florida.  Of course there are some very dangerous places in Miami, Jacksonville, and Tampa, but it doesn't compare to Philly, Newark, D.C., and New York.  The primary difference in relation to the death penalty is that these states are much more liberal and do not implement the death penalty nearly as much and is abolished in some.  Therefore, I would argue that conservatism vs. liberalism is more a factor in death penalty statistics then rural/southern vs. other geographic regions. Another example is California.  Although California has the largest amount of people on death row, the actual numbers of people being executed is much lower then other states.  California has some of the largest cities and being a border state, is also dealing with many of the same issues as Texas,  So why do they have less people being executed?  I believe they are conflicted with high crime vs. liberal ideology.  California is willing to act tough on crime and therefore convict many people of capital offenses but are hesitant to actually follow through and enter the ranks of Texas and Florida. 

Lastly, the argument that geography plays an important role in how people react to crime, i.e.  Northeast and Midwest cities are used to crime and De-sensitized  doesn't explain why Southern states with large rural areas are more likely to have high death penalty cases compared to many other states in our Union with large rural areas but with little to no executions.  One thing that is factual across our country is that are justice system needs to have serious and in-depth studies to determine why so many people, especially minorities are being persecuted and offered little legal help in their fight for justice.

1 comment:

  1. California is an interesting case. Their budget crisis seems to have a lot to do with not using the death penalty. To quote from an ACLU report:

    "In 2011 in California, a broad coalition of organizations called Taxpayers for Justice seeks to put repeal of the death penalty on the ballot for 2012 in part because of the high cost documented by a recent study that found the state has already spent $4 billion on capital punishment resulting in 13 executions. The group includes over 100 law enforcement leaders, in addition to crime-victim advocates and exonerated individuals. Among them is former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, whose office pursued dozens of capital cases during his 32 years as a prosecutor. He said, "My frustration is more about the fact that the death penalty does not serve any useful purpose and it's very expensive." Don Heller, a Republican and former prosecutor, wrote "I am convinced that at least one innocent person may have been executed under the current death penalty law. It was not my intent nor do I believe that of the voters who overwhelmingly enacted the death penalty law in 1978. We did not consider that horrific possibility." Heller emphasized that he is not "soft on crime," but that "life without parole protects public safety better than a death sentence." Additionally, he said the money spent on the death penalty could be better used elsewhere, as California cuts funding for police officers and prosecutors. "Paradoxically, the cost of capital punishment takes away funds that could be used to enhance public safety."