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Capital punishment

The double punishment experienced by death-sentenced prisoners is documented. This publication should be read by any stakeholder connected with the capital punishment process—policy leaders, lawyers, judges, and the public. Sections contained in this report are: introduction; trapped in a broken system; punishment on top of punishment; survey reveals majority of death rows hold prisoners in solitary confinement—cramped and bare cells are the norm, most on death row experience extreme isolation and inactivity, and too many on death row are denied religious services; the devastating effects of prolonged solitary confinement are well known; “death row phenomenon” and staggering delays exacerbate damage; and conclusion. “Regardless of their stance on the death penalty, the people of the United States understand that a fair justice system must be a humane justice system. And by this measure, we are currently failing. It is time for reformers on both sides of the death penalty debate to recognize the hidden harms of solitary confinement inflicted on death row prisoners across the country. Solitary confinement is not part of the sentence. In order to build a criminal justice system that accurately reflects our values, we must end the routine use of solitary confinement of death row prisoners” (p. 3).

A Death Before Dying: Solitary Confinement on Death Row Cover

"A short guide to the fundamental issues and arguments linked to introduction of alternative sanctions following abolition of the death penalty. It reviews current trends in the application of long-term and life imprisonment, highlighting relevant international and regional human rights standards and provides examples of good practice." Sections cover: the declining use of the death penalty; alternatives to the death penalty—a review of current practices—what a life sentence is, long and determinate prison sentences, indeterminate or reducible life sentences, preventive detention, mandatory and discretionary life sentences, and de facto sentences; the increasing use of "life" and long-term sentences; life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (LWOP); a human rights framework for life and long-term prisoners; use of solitary confinement for life and long-term prisoners; vulnerable life and long-term prisoners; prison management and resources; monitoring prisons where life and long-term prisoners are held; social integration of life and long-term prisoners; life and long-term sentencing practices in PRI countries; and 12 steps toward alternative sanctions to the death penalty.

Alternatives to the Death Penalty Cover

"In many respects, veterans in the United States are again receiving the respect and gratitude they deserve for having risked their lives and served their country. Wounded soldiers are welcomed home, and their courage in starting a new and difficult journey in civilian life is rightly applauded. But some veterans with debilitating scars from their time in combat have received a very different reception … Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who have committed heinous crimes present hard cases for our system of justice. The violence that occasionally erupts into murder can easily overcome the special respect that is afforded most veterans. However, looking away and ignoring this issue serves neither veterans nor victims … This report is not a definitive study of all the veterans who have been sentenced to death in the modern era of capital punishment. Rather, it is a wake-up call to the justice system and the public at large: As the death penalty is being questioned in many areas, it should certainly be more closely scrutinized when used against veterans with PTSD and other mental disabilities stemming from their service. Recognizing the difficult challenges many veterans face after their service should warrant a close examination of the punishment of death for those wounded warriors who have committed capital crimes. Moreover, a better understanding of the disabilities some veterans face could lead to a broader conversation about the wide use of the death penalty for others suffering from severe mental illness" (p. 2, 3). This report provides this information. These sections follow an executive summary: introduction; scope of the problem—veterans sentenced to death, prevalence of PTSD and other disorders, and mental illness, PTSD, and the death penalty; areas of concern in capital cases—veterans already executed (some individual profiles), condemned veterans—not executed (a few profiles), and future cases; what can be done; and conclusion.

Battle Scars: Military Veterans and the Death Penalty cover

While this article looks at the death penalty in California, it gives other states good suggestions for dealing with problems in their own death penalty systems. Sections of this paper include: bulldozing barriers and unearthing hidden costs—how much California taxpayers are really paying for the State’s illusory death penalty; paved with good intentions—the legislative history of the death penalty in California; hazardous conditions ahead—potential state and federal constitutional issues arising out of California’s current death penalty scheme; the road not taken—“Remedies” revisited; roadmap for reform; and conclusion. “It is the authors’ view that unless California voters want to tolerate the continued waste of billions of tax dollars on the state’s now-defunct death penalty system, they must either demand meaningful reforms to ensure that the system is administered in a fair and effective manner or, if they do not want to be taxed to fund the needed reforms, they must recognize that the only alternative is to abolish the death penalty and replace it with a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole” (p. S41).

Executing the Will of the Voters?: A Roadmap To Mend or End the California Legislature’s Multi-Billion-Dollar Death Penalty Debacle Cover

This is an excellent primer on how correctional officers are deeply impacted by working on death row. It is essential reading for corrections professionals, policymakers, and the public. Sections of this paper include: introduction; guards on death row; interactions with prisoners; guards at executions; and conclusion. "Like murder, execution inflicts emotional and psychological damage on those linked to it. This can begin with anticipatory trauma when a court sets an execution date and the impact can remain even years after an execution. Prison guards, who most closely interact with condemned prisoners on a daily basis, are particularly affected, including and especially those acting as executioners. The death penalty compounds the anxiety and depression to which prison guards are already especially vulnerable (over a quarter of all US prison employees suffer from depression36 – three times the level in the general US population). Given such negative aspects to the work, executing nations use enticements and punishments to keep guards in execution service … Alternatively, they may try to dissuade guards from quitting by using ridicule, bullying or demotion: one guard was given "weird duty, weird hours" after asking to be removed from the execution team, while others reported being threatened with lower paying, lower status jobs. The exposure of guards to executions and anticipated executions should therefore be a matter of serious concern to prison administrations, which have a responsibility towards the wellbeing of their staff. The unacknowledged stress experienced by guards on death rows and execution teams risks dangerous mental health consequences for them and those around them. The simplest (and best) solution would be to remove the cause of the problem and abolish the death penalty" (p. 3).

Prison Guards and the Death Penalty Cover

“This report focuses on two issues deserving greater public attention: The death penalty is being mainly driven by a small minority of counties that use it aggressively, while most counties in the U.S. do not resort to it at all. These high-use counties do not shoulder their own burdens, but instead shift the costs to every taxpayer, many of whom are unaware of the exorbitant costs or the unfavorable record of reversals and unfairness” (p. 2). Sections following an executive summary are: introduction to how 2% of the counties in the United States produce the majority of capital executions; the death penalty by county; a geographical snapshot of the death penalty; the 2% national death penalty; a few counties dominate within states; costs borne by all; legal failings in representative counties; conclusion; and a list of the top 2% counties.

The 2% Death Penalty: How a Minority of Counties Produce Most Death Cases At Enormous Costs to All Cover

"Myths and Realities" provides ‘quick answers to common questions’ about the death penalty … The booklet is interactive in format – allowing readers to read the myth and turn over a flap to discover the reality. We hope it will be a useful guide for activists and advocates of abolition, giving them the arguments they need to tackle common pre- and misconceptions." Some of the 13 realities to the myths are: the death penalty doesn't keep people safer than other sentences; you can never be 100% sure you're killing the right person; nobody can say who deserves to die; the death penalty is not applied fairly--people who are poor, mentally challenges, or from a minority are more likely to get a death sentence; the majority of the public do not want the death penalty; and one is not "soft on crime" if they oppose capital punishment-- the harshest sentence isn't the same as an effective response to crime.

The Death Penalty: Myths & Realities: Quick Answers to Common Questions cover
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