At the end of the Trump administration, amid the din of the 2020 election season, it was easy to miss that a historic shift was underway in America’s execution chambers. Or perhaps it was a return to form.
Since America’s execution fever peaked in the late 1990s, US states have been slowly banning or pausing the practice, joining, in piecemeal fashion, most other developed countries which have long outlawed capital punishment. But after a 17-year pause, Donald Trump restarted federal executions, and 13 people were killed during the second half of 2020. That’s the most federal inmates put to death under one president in the last 120 years, likely in a cold-blooded attempt to score political points. Despite years of Black Lives Matter activism, with even multi-national corporations claiming to back racial justice, here was the most powerful man in the world returning to a policy shown by numerous studies to disproportionately kill people of colour.
Why the death penalty isn’t working for America
That’s just one of the many contradictions of the death penalty. It’s a tool touted as the ultimate symbol of tough justice, yet roughly one in nine people on death row are later exonerated for innocence. Prosecutors claim it brings families closure, even as appeals drag on for decades and cost millions. It’s described as a crime prevention tool, but there’s no proof that’s true either.
So where do things stand now with the death penalty? What are Joe Biden’s plans for capital punishment? Which states might end it next, and which are digging in? How is execution tangled up in systemic racism?
I will be here, along with our campaign partners at the Responsible Business Initiative for Justice, as well as Lauren Myerscough-Mueller, staff attorney at The Exoneration Project, at 5pm BST on 8 October to answer your questions. If you have a question, submit it now, or when I join you live at 5pm on Friday.
The Independent and the nonprofit Responsible Business Initiative for Justice (RBIJ) have launched a joint campaign calling for an end to the death penalty in the US. The RBIJ has attracted more than 150 well-known signatories to their Business Leaders Declaration Against the Death Penalty – with The Independent as the latest on the list. We join high-profile executives like Ariana Huffington, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson as part of this initiative and are making a pledge to highlight the injustices of the death penalty in our coverage.