Louisiana should reconsider immoral, costly death penalty

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This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Tulane Hullabaloo.

Louisiana residents are starting to truly feel the effects of painful budget cuts to healthcare and higher education. Meanwhile, racial tensions across the state and the country become more strained, and in the state with the highest rate of incarceration in the world, this climate provides an opportune time for Louisiana to consider abolishing the death penalty. 

Debates surrounding the death penalty have resurfaced following the recent death sentence handed down to Dylan Roof, who killed nine members of a black church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. The primary defense of capital punishment, a practice often criticized as cruel and immoral, centers around the idea of crime deterrence. Supporters of the death penalty argue that this punishment discourages crime while reducing the cost of inmate housing and food. 

There is little evidence that the death penalty discourages violent crimes. A recent study found that more than 88 percent of American criminologists believe the death penalty does not lower homicide rates, and the murder rate in states without the death penalty is, on average, lower than those with it. 

Instead of saving money, capital punishment increases taxpayer cost. While executions are relatively inexpensive, a death penalty trial costs roughly $1 million more than a trial for life without parole. The high cost of these trials likely diverts resources away from effective crime prevention, like mental health and rehabilitation treatments, education, and victim services.

These trials are not only expensive—they are often flawed. Of the 155 death penalties that have been sentenced by the state of Louisiana since 1975, 82 percent have been reversed, most due to trial errors that include lawyer incompetence, errors in jury instructions and prosecutorial wrongdoing.

Research has shown that capital punishment is not only ineffective, but it also possesses a clear racial bias. In Louisiana, executions are 14 times more likely to occur when the victim is white, and a black man is 30 times more likely to receive the death penalty for the murder of a white woman than for that of a black man. Nationwide, when the victim is white, black defendants receive the death penalty at three times the rate of white defendants. 

It is immoral to cut necessary programs such as healthcare and education while still supporting this expensive, ineffective and inhumane system. Eliminating the death penalty would not assist in solving the state’s financial crisis, but it would demonstrate the government’s dedication to cutting ineffective programs before more important ones. It would also serve as a much-needed gesture of governmental support for the black community.

Camille Frink is a sophomore at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]