Connecticut becomes 17th state to (almost) abolish the death penalty

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Connecticut is officially on its way to becoming the 17th state to abolish the death penalty, and the fifth state in five years, as its House of Representatives voted 86-62 in favor of a bill overturning capital punishment. Having already passed in the Senate, the measure now only needs the signature of governor Daniel Malloy, who has promised to sign the bill into law.

Instead of the death penalty, people will now receive life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Per an amendment to the bill, individuals sentenced under the new legislation will experience conditions in prison similar to what those currently on death row experience.

The decision came after hours of debate in both the Senate and the House, including debate about an amendment to keep the death penalty in place for those who kill a police officer, which did not pass.

Though this is another exciting step in the process of eliminating the death penalty, which Catholic bishops have been calling to end for more than 25 years, there is still more work to be done. Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield, one of the leaders of repealing the death penalty, and who has a background in Catholic education, said, “It's just one step in a long movement towards fixing our system and making sure we have safety and equality in our system.”

One element of equality that seems to be missing is Connecticut’s decision to not apply the law to the 11 people currently on death row in the state. The provision was among the reasons some opposed the bill. Said House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero: “To many, it is illogical and does not make sense...We allow the death penalty to continue for at least 11 people."

If you’ve decided that it’s wrong for the state to execute people, shouldn’t that mean the end of state executions? As David Dow summarizes at The Daily Beast, “The most compelling argument is the simplest: If it is wrong to execute someone next year, it’s wrong to execute someone tomorrow.”

Hopefully more states will continue to come to this conclusion.

Related:

Bad news, good news about the death penalty in the U.S.

Stay of execution: Abolishing the death penalty