Declaration of Business and Community Leaders For Death Penalty Repeal
We are Christian, conservative, community and business leaders in Tennessee, who believe that the death penalty is not equitably applied, not fiscally responsible, and fails to make our communities safer. The death penalty is also an irreversible punishment that risks the execution of an innocent person. Therefore, we call on the Tennessee legislature and the Governor to work together not only to end capital punishment in the state but also to look for investments that will reduce crime and expand opportunities to continue making Tennessee an attractive place to live and work.
We are committed to making our communities safer. The death penalty is not a deterrent. A 2019 study found that nations that have ended capital punishment often see a decrease in crime, and in the U.S., states that utilize the death penalty do not have lower murder rates than those that don’t. In fact, murder rates are often higher in death penalty states. The death penalty does not address the causes of violent crime. And therefore, it is an opportunity cost that takes money away from programs that are proven to work.
We believe that the state should be a good steward of taxpayer dollars. The death penalty system wastes millions of dollars on a punishment that does not make us safer. It is both wasteful and ineffective. The punishment is far more costly than the alternatives of life without parole and a life sentence. Costly spending on the death penalty means that other programs such as education, mental health, corrections, and evidence-based crime prevention efforts are underfunded. By doing so, we miss crucial opportunities that would strengthen our workforce and build better communities.
We know that people sentenced to death are often not the worst of the worst, but are people who are economically disadvantaged, from a limited number of counties, and whose victims are white. The vast majority of people on death row are indigent defendants, who could not afford to pay for their own defense. Seventy percent of Tennessee’s death row comes from only four urban counties, with Shelby County accounting for half of Tennessee’s death row. This means rural counties in Tennessee are sharing the expense of a primarily urban death penalty with no benefit to their counties. And, defendants who commit crimes against white victims are more likely to receive a death sentence.
The death penalty is irreversible, and the government’s power over such a sentence should be limited. While the foundation of our justice system is based on exceptional ideals, we have nevertheless seen that the application and administration of our justice system has flaws, including the capital punishment system. In fact, due to the irreversible nature of the death penalty we, as a state, should be more wary.
We therefore ask that you as fellow conservatives reexamine the death penalty and demonstrate the leadership needed to end this failed policy.