Attorney General Mark Brnovich has announced the planned resumption of executions and has expressed his intention to make sure the 21 death row inmates who have exhausted their appeals are killed before he leaves office. This politically motivated decision is completely at odds with public opinion and completely ignores the glaring flaws in Arizona’s penalty system. It would be a disaster for our state and damage our standing for years to come – perhaps irreparably. It must be stopped.
As a business leader who has experienced the justice system first-hand, I know how bad the death penalty is: for our businesses, for our people, and for Arizona. It completely undermines any assertion that our laws and institutions reflect progressive values or evidence-based approaches, which in turn undermines investment and employment. As we look to rebuild post-pandemic, it’s crucial that we get people back to work and get our economy going again. Ending capital punishment will help.
Business and investor opposition isn’t hypothetical – it’s a rapidly growing movement. In March, some of the world’s preeminent corporate figures launched a campaign calling for its end, titled Business Leaders Against the Death Penalty. Supporters included billionaire employer and investors like Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, Vista Equity Partners chairman Robert Smith, and Galaxy Investment Partners CEO Mike Novogratz. By moving away from the death penalty, we will demonstrate shared values with stakeholders critical to our recovery.
We need cost-effective justice solutions that work. The death penalty has been proven repeatedly to be ineffective as a deterrent, and in fact, makes our communities less safe by siphoning off resources from programs that actually reduce crime. Its failure also comes at huge financial cost – at least $2 million more per case than a life sentence. In a pandemic driven recession, it represents an unacceptable waste of public funds. This was brought into sharp relief last month, when it was revealed that Arizona secretly paid $1.5 million dollars for execution drugs, at a time when 1 million Arizonans are struggling with hunger – including more than 300,000 children. Our government should prioritize saving lives, rather than ending them.
It carries an alarming risk of killing innocent people – and Arizona has sentenced innocent people to die. Ten people have been exonerated from our death row after evidence revealed their innocence. Wrongful executions cannot be corrected. This should be unacceptable to anyone.
Capital punishment is racist and arbitrary – in Arizona and beyond. Although only 5.2 percent of our state’s population is Black, they make up 16% of our death row population. We have also sentenced almost a quarter of all Native Americans in the U.S. currently facing the death penalty. The racial bias that permeates our justice system is arguably the most pressing social issue facing an American generation. If we resume executions, we will send a profoundly damaging signal about Arizona’s indifference to that issue.
For these reasons and more, support for capital punishment continues to decline. Polls last year revealed that, for the first time ever, most Americans support alternative punishments for murder. Virginia, Colorado, and New Hampshire have all abolished it in the past two years, recognizing it as arbitrary, unfair, racially discriminatory, ineffective and harmful. Closer to home, Nevada is on the cusp of ending it. Support for abolition is reflected across the political spectrum. Conservatives and people of faith are increasingly opposed to the practice as it contradicts pro-life values, wastes public resources, and runs the risk of killing innocents. If these executions go ahead, we will show ourselves to be completely out of touch with prevailing beliefs.
We must do everything in our power to shut down Arizona’s machinery of death once more. By attempting to restart it, Attorney General Brnovich is acting against Arizona’s interests, and ignoring what years of research have made startlingly clear: the death penalty fails to deliver justice by every conceivable measure.
Michelle Cirocco is the Chief Social Responsibility Officer for Televerde, the preferred global revenue creation partner supporting marketing, sales and customer success for B2B businesses around the world. Seven of Televerde’s 10 engagement centers are staffed by incarcerated women, representing 70 percent of the company’s 600+ global workforce. Michelle is also the Executive Director of Televerde Foundation.