International perspective on the US death penalty

The French newspaper Le Monde, among other foreign journals looks closely at the penal system of the United States.  Le Monde reported that Cal Coburn Brown was executed by lethal injection on September 9 in Walla Walla, Washington, bringing the number of people executed in the United States in 2010 to 38.

The death penalty was reinstated as a justified means of punishment by the Supreme Court in 1976.  Since then the US is a world leader in the execution of its inmates.  This fact has been noted recently in a series of articles by The Economist and in publications worldwide.

Nations around the world keep a keen eye on the domestic policy of the US for several reasons.  For one, the world’s wealthiest nation serves as a scale against which all other governments can be judged.  As long as the US is on top, cultural comparison will continue.  As an extension, governments abroad monitor comparisons between the US and their own governing bodies to bolster faith and reliance upon their own systems of governance.  The benefits of reporting US policy extend beyond the mere dissemination of information to their people; a hard look at a system deemed less desirable can bolster enthusiasm for alternative, less-than-perfect domestic policy decisions.

Finally, the US still represents a grand experiment.  Despite a growing history of triumphs, wars, mishaps and successes, this country and its unique system of government represents a first shot at self-governance that had never been attempted before.  As long as the US stands as the example of free nationhood, people will watch.

Cal Coburn Brown was executed on September 9, 2010 but was condemned for the kidnapping and murder of a 22 year old woman in 1991.  It isn’t so unusual that a criminal will sit on death row for 20 years.  The Economist reported that prisoner costs range up to $50,000 per year in the US, making Mr. Brown’s stay a potential $1,000,000 bill for tax-payers.

If the US is to serve abroad as an example of prudent policy and successful economics, the penal and tort systems are rife with policy that must be revisited by US lawmakers in Washington.

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