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Gov. Steve Beshear, no, the death penalty does not make the public safer

Kentucky_governor_Steve_BeshearFrom the Nov. 8 Louisville Courier-Journal‘s “Kentucky’s troubled death-penalty system lets cases languish for decades”: “Gov. Steve Beshear [right] said through a spokeswoman that he supports the death penalty ‘for violent and heinous crimes,’ and does not believe that public safety should be ‘sacrificed because of economic or budgetary concerns.'”

The death penalty, however, does nothing to enhance public safety.

States without capital punishment generally have lower murder rates than those that execute. A 2006 FBI report showed that the South, despite accounting for 80 percent of executions in the United States, also leads the country in murders.

Death penalty supporters argue that execution would be a deterrent if only it weren’t for the lengthy appeals process.

Eliminate that appeals process, however, and you increase the likelihood of Kentucky executing an innocent man, as Texas did recently with Cameron Todd Willingham. And since reinstating the death penalty in 1976, 30 death row inmates in Kentucky have had their death sentences reduced on appeal.

The checks and balances required to ensure a fair trial in capital cases prevent the death penalty from deterring crime. So if death penalty system inherently can’t improve public safety and, as the article points out, costs $8 million a year–money that could be used to hire more police, protect more at-risk children and better enforce domestic violence protection orders–why does Kentucky have it?

HB45 to abolish the death penalty in Kentucky has been prefiled in the state legislature. The bill should be passed and Gov. Beshear should sign it.

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