Skip to main content Accessibility

SPLC: Resuming barbaric practice of federal executions serves no useful purpose

The U.S. Department of Justice announced today that it plans to resume the executions of people who are awaiting the death penalty in federal prisons, ending nearly two decades in which the federal government had not imposed capital punishment.

There have not been any executions of people incarcerated in federal prisons since 2003 because the Justice Department has effectively had a moratorium on executions as it was reviewing the federal death penalty policy.

There is a reason that the United States has gone 16 years without executing anyone, and has only executed three people since 1976 in federal custody. Recognition that the criminal justice system in this country is broken, racial disparities abound, and the possibility of executing an innocent person is very real has rightly resulted in a reduction in the use of the death penalty.

The decision by U.S. Attorney General William Barr to begin executions again will not solve any of these problems or concerns. Carrying out a death sentence costs more than a life sentence, does not deter others from committing crimes, and risks imposing the ultimate price on innocent individuals. What’s more, executions have been botched in grotesque attempts that have created intense pain and suffering. 

We encourage Attorney General Barr and others in power to rethink this decision. Bringing back the barbaric practice of executions at the federal level serves no useful purpose.

Photo by Dave Martin/Associated Press