The importance of not wasting time
It was good to hear from the prime minister’s press secretary, Anthony Newbold, yesterday that capital punishment is not a government priority item at this time.
The last hanging took place in January 2000. Rulings by the court have made it unlikely that there will be further state executions.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis is a strong proponent of the death penalty.
“Just the other day, a young man was gunned down at the ATM machine. We must, as hanging is on our books, we must hang these criminals,” he said in June 2016 in the House of Assembly while in opposition.
“These murderous scumbags must be hung by the neck until they are dead.”
He also said while in opposition that, if elected prime minister, he would hold a referendum on capital punishment “as soon as possible”.
We have long been opponents of capital punishment. We are glad that, despite his personal feelings, Minnis is not wasting the time and focus of his government pursuing something that’s not going to help or happen.
Governments have limited time and political capital. It is best to spend both on policies that could occur. Wasting time and not achieving unachievable objectives leave governments bruised and without accomplishments.
“No discussion and no focus on that at the moment,” Newbold said yesterday, when asked about capital punishment.
“That’s not saying that it will never happen, but at the moment, no, that is not one of the priority items.”
The death penalty is irreversible and the criminal justice system gets it wrong. Convictions for serious crimes are overturned regularly at the Court of Appeal.
The death penalty is also disproportionately carried out on the poor, uneducated, mentally deficient and under-represented. We should not give an absolute punishment when there is so much evidence that the justice system has flaws.
The death penalty is popular in The Bahamas. The country’s focus, however, should shift from retribution to nation building and restoration. Youth development efforts such as the Citizen Security and Justice Program and the e-Learning Project, which we wrote about yesterday, would do much, much more to address our violent crime problem than hangings.
More than 1,000 people were murdered over the past decade. There were five murder records during that period. Bahamians want the rate of violent crime to decrease. There is hope that the new administration will lead the right policy mix to reverse this decade-long trend.
We can have a more peaceful society without executing people. Canada and Western Europe eliminated the death penalty, and they have some of the lowest murder rates in the world.
It’s time for Bahamians to move away from thinking of the death penalty as the solution to our crime problem. It never was, and never will be.