The conservative rationale for abolishing the death penalty

From Rev. D. Larry Ford, a former chairman of the Rutherford County Republican Party, in response to “Drug shortages and the death penalty” (Fannie Flono, March 21):

I am one of a number of conservatives who have come together to found North Carolina Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. We believe the time is right to replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole. Issues such as the new drug protocol debate are perfect examples of why we need to decide on one swift and tough punishment for convicted killers and stop dragging out the discussion of the death penalty’s future.

The supply of drugs being used for execution is quickly becoming extinct. The search for new drugs is not very promising because companies do not want to make or sell drugs used to kill people. It may be years before the courts make a decision on the current legal battle. Many of the people on North Carolina’s death row may have already died by the time it is settled. Or as some call it, they may have died of “death by incarceration.”

Life in prison without parole addresses a number of the flaws with the death penalty. As a conservative, I believe in fiscal responsibility. By replacing the death penalty with life in prison we will save North Carolina taxpayers millions of dollars a year. Yes, believe it or not it is cheaper to keep those convicted of capital crimes in prison for the rest of their lives than it is to kill them.

As a minister, I know that life in prison will prevent the execution of innocent people. In just the last few years, we have seen six people released from North Carolina’s death row who were found innocent based on evidence that surfaced many years after their convictions. And for some people of faith, life in prison fulfills their belief in the sanctity of life. If you believe in the sanctity of life at birth, shouldn’t you believe in it at death as well?

Finally, as a Republican, I seriously question whether or not a government-run program can be trusted to carry out a death penalty sentence. The system is clearly flawed and must be corrected. Death by incarceration will not be an easy life for those people convicted of the worst of all crimes. They know that for the rest of their natural lives they will be incarcerated with no hope of ever being free again and that their life will be controlled every hour of every day until they “die by incarceration.”

North Carolina has not carried out an execution in more than eight years. Only one person has been sentenced to death in the last two years. And the murder rate has fallen during that time. Now is not the time to discuss ways to execute people. It’s time to replace an outdated punishment with a new, tough and swift punishment – life in prison without parole.