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Death penalty must end in Bahamas

Amid calls for abolishing capital punishment in The Bahamas, Attorney General Carl Bethel has asserted that capital punishment is not going anywhere. This is a misguided view.

“The death penalty remains a part of Bahamian law, and as the nation’s chief law officer, responsible primarily for the enforcement of all Bahamian laws, I can say affirmatively that The Bahamas’ position on the death penalty has not changed and is not likely to change anytime soon,” he said.

We have long been against the death penalty. It is final and irreversible, yet the criminal justice system often gets it wrong. The death penalty is also disproportionately carried out on the poor, uneducated and under-represented. It is unjust.

We must do better.

Bahamians overwhelmingly support the death penalty. Though the courts have essentially ended the punishment, there is widespread nostalgia for the days of execution.

Some want it as an act of revenge in a country that has had a murder crisis for a decade. Many of the young men who violently die on our streets are involved in disputes with other young men. Some are over drugs; some are gang related; some are just silly differences between young men filled with too much testosterone and insufficient common sense.

Once one person is killed, the victim’s friends or family want revenge. They kill a member of the other side. The other side responds, killing another.

The killings go on and on until either everybody is dead, or almost everyone is, and the others are arrested. Some violent disputes span years.

The cycle of killing solves nothing.

Other Bahamians falsely think the death penalty reduces crime. A simple comparison of places that practice the final punishment and those that don’t proves that assumption incorrect. Canada and Western Europe, for example, long banned the death penalty. Their crime rates are lower than the United States, which still executes.

Our society is already too violent. We must work on policies that help reduce violence, poverty and social desperation. We must improve our education system. Parents must take a more active role in raising their children with rules and values. Our young men need to be taught how to solve conflicts without violence. Robust economic growth is needed to find work for those without.

The more we create a society of opportunity and dignity, the less violent crime we’d have.

We must commit to doing the difficult, long-term work to reduce crime and violence. We must stop seeking simplistic, singular solutions to our circumstance.

In a recent interview with The Bahama Journal, Together Against the Death Penalty (ECPM), a French non-governmental organization, urged the Bahamian government to abolish the death penalty.

Executive Director Raphael Chenuil-Hazen criticized The Bahamas’ continued non-support of a United Nations resolution for a moratorium on the death penalty. He said that The Bahamas and the rest of the English-speaking Caribbean have not abolished capital punishment yet, due to a “fake solidarity” among the nations.

Chenuil-Hazan made the comments during an interview at the 7th World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Brussels, Belgium.

The Bahamas needs to abolish the death penalty. The punishment is unfair and archaic. We need to focus on crime prevention and rehabilitation. The call for state killing is a punishment of the past.

We can build a society of justice without the classist, racist, unjust death penalty. It is time for transformative leaders to educate our people on why we must end the death penalty.

Our society is not bettered by using state killing against the poor and lower classes after killing has already happened. The death penalty is no solution to any problem The Bahamas faces.

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