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Will the Death Penalty Remain Alive in the Twenty-first Century?: International Norms, Discrimination, Arbitrariness and the Risk of Executing the Innocent, 2001 WISCONSIN LAW REVIEW 1 (2001)


Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg once said that the deliberate institutionalized taking of human life by the state is the greatest degradation of the human personality imaginable. Although most developed nations in the world have abandoned the death penalty, the United States, which purports to be a leader in the protection of human rights, retains capital punishment. Thirty-eight states, the federal government and the military provide for death as a punishment for certain crimes. Over 3,600 people are on death rows across the country. Executions have become "routine" in Texas and the pace of executions is increasing throughout the country.

The death penalty is a relic of another era, before the federal government and the states developed the vast prison industrial complex that exists today. In a frontier society, when many communities did not have prisons or jails, the methods of punishment were limited to such things as whipping, branding, cutting off fingers, placing people in stocks, and hanging or shooting them. But today those punishments are no longer necessary because communities can be protected and offenders punished by prison sentences-even, in some cases, sentences of life imprisonment without any possibility of parole-in institutions such as the "super maximum" prisons where inmates never come in contact with another human being.

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