If China can consider a death-penalty ban, why can't the U.S.?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

In his Aug. 16 op-ed, "Is mercy coming to China?," John Kamm noted that in the past decade China has reduced its rate of executing prisoners by half, from 10,000 per year to fewer than 5,000, with about 2,000 executions projected for 2012. The government has a stated goal of abolishing the death penalty. It abolished public executions some time ago.

It is not often that China can serve as a human rights model. But a stated goal of abolishing the death penalty is a step that we should be taking. It would do much to remove a barbaric relic from our judicial system.

We have reduced executions in the United States from about 100 a year 10 years ago to about 50 now. That is about the same percentage reduction as in China and with much smaller numbers. Still, even one execution is too many. And with an average of 15,000 murders per year in the United States and only 50 executions for murder, the penalty is so freakishly rare as to be "cruel and unusual." It should be abolished.

Herbert C. Puscheck, Alexandria

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