Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Next Bailout?

The current economic recession has claimed its latest victims -- the nation's executioners.  According to a recent National Law Journal story, executions nationwide hit a 14-year low in 2008.  Just 38 prisoners were executed in 2008, continuing a decade long decline in executions from the high of 98 executions in 1999.

The reduction in executions can partly be attributed to a moratorium during the early part of the year while the Supreme Court heard a case challenging the constitutionality of lethal injection.  However, when the Supreme Court gave the thumbs up (or perhaps, it's thumbs down) to lethal injection, the lethal cocktails did not "flow" as expected.  Even normally prolific Texas suffered a severe slowdown in executions with just 18, almost half of the nation's total.

In addition to the slowdown sparked by the moratorium, execution production was further slowed by activists judges.  For instance, four inmates were exonerated and four others had their sentences commuted to life in prison.  In addition, more than 25 executions were stayed.

Legal ambiguities and petty concerns over innocence or guilt has decimated the execution industry, which had previously been one of America's few growth industries (and one that is impervious to outsourcing).  As a result, executions across the country have been laid off or had their hours greatly reduced.  Before long, we may see them appearing before Congress asking for an execution "stimulus package," which removes, say, the right to confront witnesses or the presumption of innocence.

And while this may seem drastic, we must do something.  Otherwise, we run the risk of becoming a country without an execution industry.  How would we ever maintain our superpower status?

No comments: