The Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) recently released its 2012 year-end report highlighting a record decrease in new death sentences as well as other signs that the public continues to turn away from capital punishment. This trend points to important opportunities for those of us committed to replacing the death penalty with supports and services that better serve victims’ needs and that prevent violence in the first place.
Seventy-seven people were sentenced to death in 2012, more than half of these sentences were imposed in the South. While executions remained the same as last year (43), only nine states executed inmates in 2012. Four states were responsible for three-quarters of executions in the U.S.—Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Arizona.
The report also highlights Connecticut’s recent death penalty repeal and California’s dramatic shift against capital punishment in November when nearly half the electorate (48%) came out in favor of total abolition of the death penalty.
Overall, the report shows a continued decline in the use of the death penalty. Five states have abolished the death penalty in the past five years, Connecticut being the most recent. Other states like Maryland, Colorado, and New Hampshire may soon join the other 17 non-death penalty states this year.
While this is a positive change, more can be done to meet the needs of murder victims’ families. In these times of economic hardship, a costly measure like the death penalty is becoming increasingly irrelevant and burdensome to victims’ families and loved ones. The money diverted to uphold a faulty death-penalty system would be better used towards compensation and counseling programs, mental health services, and violence prevention and restorative justice programs. The tide is turning, yet there is still much work ahead of us.