Why Do We Keep Executing People?

In a piece for CNN, Thomas Cahill, author of A Saint on Death Row, examines the perils of the death penalty and contends that it unfairly targets the poor.

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Thomas Cahill, the author of A Saint on Death Row, denounces capital punishment in a piece at CNN and encourages state governments to address the effects of poverty as a way to reduce crime. 

Kimberly McCarthy is a black woman. Black people are disproportionately represented on death row, as are blacks imprisoned throughout this country. Many would say (at least in a whisper) that black people are more prone to crime and violence than are white people.

But as a historian, I know that there was a time, long ago, when my people -- Irish-Americans -- were deemed to be more prone to crime and violence than were others. This was in the years after the potato famines of the 19th century that brought so many desperately poor Irish people to these shores

The police in New York City became so inured to arresting Irishmen that they began to call the van they threw the arrestees into "the Paddy Wagon," a name that has adhered to that vehicle ever since.

But who today would care (or dare) to make a case for exceptional Irish criminality? The immigrating Irish were more prone to criminality not because of some genetic inheritance, but because they were so very poor, so neglected, so abandoned ...

If Texas would pay attention to the needs of all its children, if we would all do the same for all our children, if we would only admit that every child needs to be loved and that we are all obliged to help ensure this outcome, our world would change overnight. We would certainly not need our electric chairs and nooses and lethal injections. We could then say what the poet-priest John Donne said as long ago as 1623, "Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind."

Read Thomas Cahill's entire piece at CNN.  

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