The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

U.S. executions continue

Dec 12, 2005

North Carolina officials executed a man on death row on December 2, followed by another execution, this one in South Carolina, the same day. Maryland executed a man on December 5th. These judicially carried out executions mark more than 1,000 people put to death since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to re-institute the death penalty in 1976.

But all death sentences are not equal, of course. Almost all prisoners facing execution are poor. One third of them are black, reflecting the fact that in this racist society, poverty weighs so much more heavily on the black community. Most prisoners have virtually no education. Most on death row are served by lawyers who are state-appointed.

And where a person is jailed makes a big difference to what sentence is given. Twelve states and the District of Columbia have abolished the death penalty completely. By contrast, 355 of the executions, more than one third, took place in one state: Texas.

Although the majority of people in this country still favor the death penalty, support for this barbaric practice is declining. Some people were convinced by prisoners being taken off death row after new evidence, especially from DNA testing, was received. About one in eight sentences for those on death row have been shown to be in error.

The U.S. is not only one of the most bloodthirsty nations in the world – only China, Iran and Viet Nam show similar numbers of executions. The U.S. also has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, with a million and a half people behind bars.

As of this writing, Stanley “Tookie” Williams awaits execution in California. Only clemency from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger can stop the execution scheduled for December 13. And Schwarzenegger dragged out his decision in the most demeaning, cynical and inhumane fashion.

The Williams case exposes this so-called justice system for what it is worth.

As a teenager in the 1970s, he helped organize the Crips gang in Los Angeles. He participated in many crimes, including drugs, robbery and murder – although he denied committing the particular murders for which he was sentenced to death in 1979.

During Williams’ many years in jail, he finally got the education he never got in the supposedly “free” society outside. In a country with a free public education for all, Williams and millions of other poor children got nothing, becoming the uneducated youth making up gangs and committing horrible crimes. In prison, he wrote nine children’s books, telling his young readers about his life, warning them against gangs. His transformation helped gain him supporters around the world; in 2000, a member of Switzerland’s parliament nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize.

No one denies Williams’ horrible past. Very few people would argue that prison helps anyone develop a productive life. Yet Williams got in prison what he never got in the outside society: a chance to study, develop ideas and attempt to positively influence younger people.

That fact alone demonstrates to what extent this society is degenerate, unwilling to provide for the needs of its citizens. The leaders of the U.S., not only the former governor of Texas, but politicians of both parties pretend they are doing something about the violence this society engenders. No – everything they do encourages a bleak future among the poor, a future which can only produce more murder and mayhem – not less.