A concise, well-reasoned argument against capital punishment.
Presidential candidate and reformer Jackson Sr. is known for both political savvy and rhetorical excess. In the company of his son, a US congressman from Illinois, and Nation writer Shapiro, Jackson keeps his arguments at a moderate pitch that accords principled proponents of the death penalty a measure of respect—but that insists all the same that they’re wrong, wrong, wrong. The authors approach their subject from several sides, touching on issues of morality, race, religion, and law. On the religious front, they argue that although the Bible seems divided on the matter of the death penalty, “human beings do not have the right, and should not be given the power, to take away what God has created”; on the matter of race, they observe that the death penalty is meted out disproportionately to African-Americans and other ethnic minorities; on the legal front, most practically of all, they question whether many courts are capable even of considering capital cases when nationwide budget crises have forced courts “to trim away resources required for equal justice to prevail.” They hold that the arguments for killing killers are flawed; the supposed deterrent effect of the possibility of being put to death for crimes committed has done nothing to slow the rate of crime, they insist, while the states that most vigorously employ the death penalty are the ones whose rates of crime have been slowest to fall. That is especially true of Texas and Florida, they add, the provinces of the brothers Bush; now that the most aggressively pro-death of them is president, the authors conclude, the time has come to insist, if not on the abolition of capital punishment, then on a national moratorium on execution.
Eye-for-an-eye types will dismiss this out of hand, but anti–death penalty activists will find in it new arguments, calmly advanced, to support their views.