Today Mississippi legislators, eager to indicate their determination to render life in the state as similar to the Dark Ages as possible, passed a bill to reintroduce a little variety into capital punishment. Mississippi is bringing back all the fun ways to kill people: firing squad, electric chair, and even the gas chamber! Yes, you read that right. As such, it seems important to discuss exactly what the death penalty is, how it is applied, and how effective it is at deterring crime.

The death penalty is ostensibly meant to dispense justice to the most egregious and malicious of criminals: serial killers, torturers, and cold-blooded murderers. But what if this most extreme of punishments is applied to someone who doesn’t fall into one of those categories? What if a completely innocent person is convicted of one of these grave offenses and sentenced to death? Ending the life of an offender is not something that can be undone. In the case of a wrongful conviction, this means that a completely innocent person has been murdered by the state while the real killer walks free.

I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself: “Yeah, but that can’t happen very often. Our justice system works well.”

Unfortunately, this is not the case. A recent study indicates that nearly one in every 25 individuals sentenced to death are, in fact, innocent. This means that one out of every 25 executions by the state ends the life of a totally innocent individual. The grave irreversibility of capital punishment means that these wrongful convictions cannot ever be rectified. Below is a graph indicating exactly what the causes of these horrendous wrongful convictions are:

Should we, as a society, continue to kill innocent people at such an extraordinary rate, and much less with such arcane tactics as electrocution or the firing squad? Of course not. Life in prison for the most violent of offenders is far preferable to the death of even one innocent person.

However, proponents of the death penalty will argue that this destruction of innocent life is worth it if the death penalty has a strong enough deterrent effect on potential future sociopaths hell-bent on killing others. Putting aside the problems with such vulgar utilitarianism, research indicates that this deterrent effect is nonexistent. Consider the following from the Death Penalty Information Center:

A report released on April 18, 2012, by the prestigious National Research Council of the National Academies based on a review of more than three decades of research concluded that studies claiming a deterrent effect on murder rates from the death penalty are fundamentally flawed. The report concluded: “The committee concludes that research to date on the effect of capital punishment on homicide is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates. Therefore, the committee recommends that these studies not be used to inform deliberations requiring judgments about the effect of the death penalty on homicide.

Clearly, there isn’t one shred of evidence to support the claims of those in favor of capital punishment. It is an ineffective, arcane, barbaric, and unjust method of punishment that has resulted in the death of an untold number of innocent people and has no deterrent effect on crime whatsoever.

Sadly, the Mississippi Legislature isn’t concerned with such fact-based trivialities. No, they’d much rather earn a few more votes by signaling their “toughness on crime” by reintroducing barbaric execution tactics than save the lives of innocent people by ending the practice of capital punishment altogether.

Thankfully, there are a few Mississippi legislators who value the lives of innocent people over conservative virtue signaling and pandering. Thank you, Joel Bomgar and Toby Barker, for standing up for justice rather than conforming to partisan pressures.