Repeal in Midwestern State Signals New Momentum Nationwide
SPRINGFIELD, Ill., March 9, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation repealing the death penalty, making Illinois the fourth states in as many years to abandon capital punishment.
"This is a turning point," said Shari Silberstein, Executive Director of Equal Justice USA (EJUSA), a national organization who worked with state partners on the repeal.
EJUSA worked on the ground in Illinois as a national partner to the repeal campaign.
"Illinois had a moratorium for ten years, two study commissions, and a series of reforms in an effort to create a death penalty that works," Silberstein said. "Illinois tried harder than most to create a fair, accurate, and effective death penalty. If they couldn't get it right, then no state can," Silberstein continued.
The new law will also allocate money saved by eliminating capital punishment to increase training for law enforcement and services for families of murder victims.
"We've known for a long time that the death penalty costs millions more than life without parole, and that it fails victims' families and law enforcement – the very constituencies it purports to help," said Silberstein.
"Illinois is the first state to do something positive for victims' families and public safety with funds previously wasted on the death penalty," Silberstein continued.
Today's development comes after months of calls by a broad coalition of organizations and individuals, at the forefront of which were murder victims' families, current and former law enforcement officials, and death row exonerees.
Illinois will be the 16th state to abandon capital punishment, and the fourth in recent years, following New Mexico, New Jersey, and New York. This political trend mirrors public opinion. A majority of voters now support life without parole over the death penalty and death sentences have dropped to near record lows. Earlier this year the Montana Senate voted to repeal the death penalty. Hearings were held Monday in Connecticut, where eighty murder victims' family members urged repeal.
"Other states are learning what Illinois did: the death penalty is unworkable," Silberstein said. "More will soon follow Illinois' lead."
EJUSA is a national, grassroots organization working to build a criminal justice system that is fair, effective, and humane, starting with repeal of the death penalty and increased services to families of homicide victims.
SOURCE Equal Justice USA