WASHINGTON - The NAACP sent congratulations to Illinois Governor Patrick J. Quinn and the state legislature for repealing its state’s death penalty. The governor also commuted the sentences of the 15 inmates currently on death row to life in prison without parole. Governor Quinn signed the historic legislation in a ceremony held at the state capital.
“These measures will enable Illinois to use the savings gained from ending the death penalty to provide a reparation award to children of murder victims, provide services and programs to murder victims’ families, create a murder victim family services fund and require employers to provide leave to crime victims to attend judicial proceedings,” said NAACP President Benjamin T. Jealous. “In the end it’s about being smart on crime and doing what is right for the residents of the great state of Illinois. In doing so, they light a candle for smart crime policies for our entire nation. We sincerely hope that their enlightened leadership will clear a path for other states to follow.”
On January 6, the Illinois House approved SB3539, a bill to repeal the death penalty and use the money saved to assist victims' families and improve law enforcement, by a vote of 60-54. The action came eleven years after a moratorium on executions was put in place by then Governor George Ryan; there have been no executions in the state since then. One week later, the Illinois Senate, by a vote of 32-25, joined the House in voting to repeal the penalty.
“In addition to being costly, ineffective, and a huge strain on our cash-strapped economy, the death penalty has been economically and racially discriminatory in its application,” said Donald R. Jackson, NAACP Illinois State Conference President. “Illinois has an established history of making the right and conscionable decision in regard to this matter. In 2005, Governor Ryan commuted the sentences of 156 inmates in the state because of the problems cited above. Further, 138 innocent people have been released from death row – some just moments before their execution – since the reinstatement of the death penalty. We would not only save money and the integrity of our criminal justice system, but most importantly, we would save innocent human lives.”
Research has long shown that the death penalty is a very expensive and ineffective measure for enforcing our most severe criminal justice laws. First, studies have time and again demonstrated that the death penalty is no better a crime deterrent than long prison sentences. In fact, states without the death penalty have lower crime rates. Putting someone on death row costs more than keeping them in prison for life. Statistics from across the country indicate that it costs anywhere from $1-3 million per death penalty case, from the point of arrest to execution. A life sentence averages roughly $500,000-$750,000.
“We congratulate our Illinois State Conference that worked tirelessly to support the repeal,” said Hilary Shelton, Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy. “Their efforts contributed significantly in lodging a result in a strong bipartisan vote in the Illinois legislature reflecting a growing consensus that the death penalty has failed the people of Illinois. Repealing the Illinois death penalty will serve justice by taking a stance against the egregious disparity that exists with regards to the application of the death penalty and serve as a brilliant example of what every state in the U.S., still having a death penalty on record should do.”