by Shar Lichty
PJALS’ Inland NW Death Penalty Abolition Group (INDPAG)has been working toward ending the death penalty for decades through raising awareness among the public. The statewide campaign Safe & Just Alternatives (SJA) could win legislation to end it soon!
The death penalty is an unjust, unfair, and irrational punishment that does not deter crime. The death penalty costs tax-payers more than life imprisonment, with majority of these extra costs being incurred during the trial phase. The death penalty is arbitrary in small part due to geography, with smaller counties unable to incur the cost, and in large part due to race. Washington’s death row currently houses 8 individuals, 4 of which are African American males. From Facing Race: 2012 Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity:
In Washington, the state is more likely to impose a death sentence on African American defendants (47% of the time) than white defendants (26% of the time) convicted of the same offense. Race of the victim also plays a key role with prosecutors seeking the death penalty in 28% of cases with one white victim, but only 18% of cases with a victim of color. When there is a white defendant and a victim of color, the rate is less than 13%.
As we move into the next legislative session, INDPAG is working with SJA toward eliminating the death penalty as a sentencing option for aggravated first-degree murder. The campaign is working to secure a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee and possibly one in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Any progress this year will be a success that we will add to in the upcoming year. INDPAG has generated over 200 postcards to legislators calling for repeal. We will be hosting a training on how to speak to legislators on Wed. Jan 2 at 5:30pm in the Community Building and hope to send a small contingent to Olympia to participate in a Lobby Day and attend the hearing on January 28. For more information on INDPAG, the training, or ways that you can make a difference, please contact [email protected] For more information on the campaign, visit sjawa.org.