Saturday, December 18, 2004

US Justice and the Sanctity of Life

As we enter the Christian season of celebrating hope and new life, many focus on the birth of Jesus as a time to reflect on the sanctity of life. God created, and reveres and respects all life, not just newborn and unborn life. He clearly commanded man to do the same.

The following is an excerpt from the website of the Australian Coalition Against the Death Penalty, a non-profit human rights organizatian not affiliated with any religious or political organization.

My hope is that readers will ponder this info, and use it in 2005 and beyond to formulate their support and votes for elected representatives, and to advise and guide such elected officials.

And that readers will consider the effect that the angry and oft arrogant, judgmental mood and violent behavior of the American people is having upon the sanctity of life in the US.

"The USA is the only western nation that has NOT abolished capital punishment. Since 1976, the USA has executed 935 prisoners. During 2004, 59 prisoners have been executed - an average of one per week. Since 1990, the USA has executed the most child offenders in the world.

In 1968, there were 517 prisoners on death row in the USA. Currently, more than 3,400 death row prisoners are awaiting execution. Death row numbers have increased about 4.9 times as fast as the American population. 68% of all death verdicts are eventually reversed by courts due to various serious errors in the criminal justice system. Since 1973, 117 prisoners have been exonerated from death row.

The USA incarcerates the most people per head of population than any other country in the world. More than 2.2 million of the world's 8 million prisoners are incarcerated in the USA (1 in every 75 males). America has over half-million more prisoners than China with only one-quarter of China's population. Since 1980, the American incarceration rate has more than tripled. Currently, 6.9 million Americans make up the correctional population. More than 4 million on probation and almost 800 thousand on parole. 1 in every 31 people are either in prison, in county jail, in police custody, on probation, on parole, or on community service.

Each year, America incarcerates more than 10 million people. More than 10,000 child offenders are held in high risk adult prisons. In 2004, the adult correctional population reached a record high. If recent incarceration rates remain unchanged, an estimated 1 in every 19 people will be incarcerated during their lifetime.

Each year, there are some 3,000 reports of deaths-in-custody. Ten years ago, only 150 deaths-in-custody were reported. The incarceration rate in the USA is currently 715 per 100,000 people. America has some of the toughest prison sentences in the world, which include the death penalty and life without the possibility of parole. In Australia, where capital punishment has been abolished, the incarceration rate is 143 per 100,000 people. Almost two thirds of world countries have incarceration rates of 150 or below, per 100,000 people.

All the above being the case, the USA should be the safest country to live in ... yet ... it is a country of which has the most violence !

On average, the American homicide rate is 7-9 per 100,000 population. In the city of Los Angeles alone, there are 20-50 murders every 24 hours. Texas, the country's leading execution state, has actually experienced an increase in the homicide rate. There are 35 firearm-related deaths per one million people.

America has the highest rates of childhood homicide, suicide and firearm-related deaths among 25 industrialised countries. The overall firearm-related death rate among American children less than 15 years of age, is 12 times higher than in all 25 industrialised countries combined. The overall firearm-related homicide rate is nearly 16 times higher. The firearm-related suicide rate is nearly 11 times higher.

(source: U.S. Bureau of Justice stats - Nov. 2004, FBI stats, U.S. Sentencing Project, U.S. Department Health and Human Services, Death Penalty Information Centre, Amnesty International, Australian Institute Criminology, AusStats.)

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