Alternatives to the death penalty

Ralph Dellapiana explains his abolitionist views to students after his presentation denouncing the death penalty. Jake Buntjer/UVU Review

Gary Gilmore was the first person to be executed after the 1972 moratorium on the death penalty was put into practice. He died by firing squad on on January 17, 1977, at Utah State Prison in Draper.

There are many who support the death penalty; however, there are many who do not. Ralph Dellapiana founded Utahans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty with the belief that, just as we no longer execute minors or the mentally ill, “evolving standards of decency” will eventually motivate us to completely abolish the death penalty.

His presentation “Should we put Utah’s Death Penalty on the Chopping Block?” expressed his views regarding the issue and its continual evolution.

Worldwide, 139 countries are abolitionist in law or practice, while only 58 countries retain the death penalty, according to Dellapiana and the Death Penalty Information Center. These numbers demonstrate that retribution is not inherent to human nature.

Dellapiana cited the top executioners in the world, including China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the U.S. The practice has been discontinued in 15 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, while 35 states still implement it, according to DPIC.

Referencing the decision made by Illinois Gov. George Ryan on Jan. 31, 2000, to put a moratorium on the death penalty and exonerate 13 death row inmates because of flaws evident within death penalty practice, Dellpiana emphasized the possible innocence of those being accused and sentenced.

Dellapiana and others are searching for alternatives to the death penalty because of inevitable flaws in legal processes (conviction of the innocent, etc.), the extremely high cost (much more so than a life sentence), its divergence from their moral and/or religious views and its arbitrary and discriminatory practice based on race, class and other statuses.

“Utah needs something faster and cheaper that is better for the victim’s families,” Dellapiana said.

The families of victims are among the most fervent abolitionists, as they cannot see a point in spending millions of dollars to kill an incapacitated person when there are many murderers who continue to live among us. Many of them would rather redirect our resources towards victim rehabilitation and solving cold case murders, which would give greater relief, safety and satisfaction.

New Jersey, mentioned Dellapiana, was able to hire 160 new police officers when they abolished their death penalty and Colorado would be able to investigate 1,400 cold case murders, as many would prefer to do.

Everything else aside, when a human being’s life is on the line, it seems ethical to at least consider alternatives to execution.

To do more research into the issue or become involved, visit www.UTADP.org

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