This past week, rare actual progress occurred in the United States’ criminal justice system. The State of Alabama successfully and humanely implemented nitrogen gas to perform an execution by hypoxia: a totally new, quick and cheap method to replace the costly and burdensome lethal injection and to avoid the intense electric chair. The New York Young Republican Club congratulates the State of Alabama on this innovation and on removing a brutal contract killer from its citizenry!
The costs and inefficiency around the death penalty are absurd. Over half of prisoners sentenced to death have been on death row over 18 years, as their appeals drag on. Death row inmates seem to be guaranteed at least a decade before their sentence is carried out, which has frustrated many of them who just want it over with, such as Scott Dozier, who killed himself after his execution was repeatedly delayed. This lengthy detention costs taxpayers millions, but it is surprisingly not the largest expense. The procurement of the simple drugs involved can cost states millions, largely due to Big Pharma blocking corrections departments from purchasing the drugs through conventional means. There is no reason for the actual execution method to be so costly, when a 9mm pistol cartridge costs around 20 cents, commercial electricity costs less than 20 cents per kilowatt-hour (the chair requires only about 20 kilowatts), and a tank of nitrogen gas costs about $100. A “bullet fee” on the criminal’s estate could also be imposed.
The American death penalty system was once expedient: after the Soviet spy couple Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted on federal espionage charges on March 29, 1951 and were sentenced to death on April 9, they were executed in tandem on June 19, 1953 in New York by electric chair. Imagine that kind of turnaround today for a celebrity case! This occurred when the USA was a serious nation that cared about its military and nuclear secrets, well before Bill Clinton started selling such info to China. Even more recently, Timothy McVeigh was sentenced to death on account of the Oklahoma City Bombing on June 13, 1997, and his sentence was carried out on June 11, 2001. Speed is possible!
The death penalty has been mostly discarded in the Western world, with the EU banning it in its charter and other European nations following suit (even Russia imposed a moratorium since 1996, preferring hard labor). In Europe, only Belarus practices capital punishment. Most of Europe exists now in a clown world, where Anders Breivik killed 69 people in a terror attack in Norway and was sentenced to 21 years in a comfortable cell with an Xbox. Most of the United States remains refreshingly unique both in its willingness to execute murderers and to detain them in unpleasant conditions. 27 states retain the penalty, and 24 and 18 criminals were executed in 2023 and 2022, respectively. We encourage all Club members to learn more through the statistics provided by the Death Penalty Information Center.
There is no deterrence quite like death. One can say that life in solitary confinement is worse, and one may be right, but truly understanding what such an imprisonment is like compared to death is beyond most people’s comprehension. While reasonably respecting everyone’s right to due process and a fair trial and appeal process, the death penalty timeline needs to be shortened and cheapened. The State of Alabama has taken a step in the right direction!