We believe that those who commit violent crimes should be held accountable for their actions, and the public should be protected from those who seek to harm others, but there is strong evidence that we can achieve justice and protect our communities without resorting to more killing in the name of vengeance.
There is little evidence to suggest that the death penalty increases public safety any more than long prison sentences, and there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that the death penalty is applied unevenly and unfairly, even for similar crimes. Some people are sentenced to die because they couldn’t afford a better lawyer, or because they stand trial in a county that happens to seek the death penalty frequently. Approximately 65% of men and women on death row in our state are people of color. A system that is applied so unevenly should not be allowed to choose who lives and who dies.
We are also troubled by the possibility of executing an innocent person. Nationally, more than 150 men and women have been released from death row after evidence of their wrongful convictions emerged, including six from Pennsylvania. The execution of an innocent person would be an intolerable injustice.
Further, there is evidence that the death penalty prolongs the suffering of many victims’ family members as these cases involve years of legal uncertainty, scores of meaningless death warrants, additional court hearings, and frequent media headlines that can re-traumatize victims and reopen wounds again and again.
Study after study also show that death penalty cases are far more expensive than cases where a sentence of life without parole or other long prison sentences are sought due to the Constitutionally mandated safeguards that are required in all capital cases. The expenditure of the state’s limited financial resources should reflect our values, and we must ask ourselves if the resources currently being spent on the pursuit of executions could be
redirected to programs that will better serve victims’ families and address the root causes of crime.
We’ve heard repeatedly that asking state workers to carry out executions in our name places an incredible burden on them, one that we may never truly understand. We must also ask ourselves whether it is ever fair to inflict this burden on another human being.
Finally, as people of faith, we believe in believe in and affirm every person’s capacity for redemption. Government should not resort to policies that cut off the opportunity to repent.
For all of these reasons, we support a moratorium on executions and encourage our state’s leaders to conclude that the death penalty, as it has been carried out in Pennsylvania, is inconsistent with the values our state wishes