The tides are turning against the idea that the state should have the autonomy to decide whether a man lives or dies as we reach historic lows in approval ratings for the death penalty.
The decreased approval for the execution of one’s fellow man comes about as the rate of executions falls to a 25-year low. States are sentencing fewer individuals to the death penalty and fewer are being carried out, both nationally and state-by-state.
For much of the time that we saw a marked decrease in the use of the death penalty, America’s support for the method of criminal justice has not wavered. What could have caused this decline now?
According to new Pew Research, the rate of Americans who support the death penalty is now at its lowest rate in four decades. Unlike then, now there are sharp divides among people who support and oppose the death penalty. Socially, economically, racially, – and most drastically – politically. While 72 percent of Republicans continue to support the barbaric practice, only 34 percent of Democrats do, and that number could continue to decline. The growing group of Independents are split almost evenly over whether or not to support the death penalty.
Support for the death penalty peaked during the early ’90s when violent crime spiked. The rate has dropped dramatically since then, but it has taken much longer for support for the death penalty to fall.
Now, only a handful of states still actively use the death penalty. In 2015, only five states carried out executions. Other states have laws for executions on the books but no longer carry them out.
Is it time that we can look at this method of punishment – not rehabilitation – and decide as a society if we are ready to eliminate it from our national conscience. Improved scientific methods means that we are learning each day of a new case where our nation elected to kill a man we thought guilty, only to find out his innocence years later.
Is it worth it, or can we move past it?