Today, the Illinois House of Representatives voted to abolish the death penalty. The bill (SB 3539) now goes to the Illinois Senate, which will debate and vote on it very soon. (Those of you in Illinois can call the capitol switchboard at (217) 782-2000, ask for your Senator and say, “I’m a constituent and I urge you to support SB 3539.” You can find out who your state Senator is here.)
Governor Pat Quinn has been somewhat non-committal about whether he would sign it into law, but he has been a vocal supporter of the moratorium on executions which has been in place for over ten years.
Illinois is the fifth largest state in the country, in terms of population, and was once a regular user of capital punishment. The moratorium was imposed back in the year 2000 when it became obvious that the state’s death penalty was massively flawed – more death row prisoners were being found innocent than were being executed. No solution to these problems has been found during the intervening decade, while capital punishment has continued to drain the state’s treasury.
Abolishing policies that do more harm than good and cost a lot of money is just common sense. Today’s vote reflects that fact that elected officials in Illinois, as elsewhere, are taking a more rational approach to the death penalty, and realizing that getting rid of it is the most sensible option.