As a lifelong Republican, I am encouraged to see the progress that we are making in Kansas. This past legislative session, the Legislature passed important measures to make our state more competitive and protect basic constitutional rights.
Of course, there always is more work to do. I hope Republicans also will show leadership on an important issue likely to be debated next session – repeal of the death penalty.
There is an unfortunate misperception that if you are conservative you must favor the death penalty. Nothing could be further from the truth. When you truly study the death penalty, it becomes clear that there is nothing conservative about it.
Let’s be honest about what the death penalty is: an ineffective government program that wastes millions in taxpayer dollars. The death penalty is an awesome power to entrust to government, especially given its long track record of errors. If the death penalty actually reduced crime, perhaps there would be an argument for keeping it. But that isn’t the case. Year after year, states with the death penalty have higher murder rates than states without it.
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We, the taxpayers, end up footing the bill for this ineffective system. Death penalty cases are a seemingly endless legal process involving lengthy trials and appeals, which prove incredibly costly. For instance, the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit found that capital cases ending in the death penalty are 70 percent more expensive than similar murder cases where the death penalty is not sought.
Some call for shortening the legal process in capital cases as a way to make the death penalty cheaper, but that is a risky solution. More than 140 individuals in the United States have been sentenced to death and later released, sometimes decades later, after evidence emerged proving that they were wrongfully convicted. In such an imperfect system, shortening the legal process only will increase the risk of executing the wrong person.
Repeal of the death penalty ensures that our government never will make the mistake of executing an innocent life. For this reason, repeal of the death penalty is an important step for promoting a culture of life. The death penalty is simply not necessary to protect life, given that there are alternatives such as life in prison without parole available to keep society secure.
As conservatives work to protect life, no argument is more powerful for our efforts than advocating a consistent life ethic – that is, opposing all threats to life from conception to natural death. Kansas has been a leader in passing measures to protect the unborn. The state now also has the opportunity to be a leader in ending another threat to life, capital punishment. Repealing the death penalty next year would send a strong statement that Kansas is committed to a consistent life ethic.
It is because of – not in spite of – conservative principles that our elected officials have strong reason to end Kansas’ broken death penalty. Such a move will help conservatives, especially in our outreach to young people. After all, there are few values that appeal to young people more than consistency.
If we, as conservatives, are serious about cutting costs and promoting a culture of life, then our position on the death penalty is a no-brainer. Repeal it.