Mark E. Edwards: Life without parole a proper sentence

May 6, 2014 

Your May 1 editorial “ A shameful execution” highlights the reasons why we should replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole.

As a conservative Republican, I strongly support the government’s duty to maintain law and order. However, as the distinguished columnist George Will once said, “Conservatives, especially, should draw this lesson: Capital punishment, like the rest of the criminal justice system, is a government program, so skepticism is in order.” The botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma graphically illustrates Will’s point.

The editorial also alluded to a group of people we never talk about when it comes to executing inmates. Those people are the dedicated staff of the Department of Corrections. These public servants do not enter the field to carry out these executions. In states where the death penalty is the ultimate punishment, some of those hardworking people end up assigned to the surreal task of assisting in the taking of a life.

I understand that the prison staff is responsible for overseeing every aspect of life for each inmate. No matter how professionally the staff carries out its duties, a community is formed and relationships established with the prisoners, including those who sit and wait on death row. Then they have to participate in the inmate’s execution. That cannot be easy for these men and women.

Legal battles are underway right now in North Carolina over the drugs being considered for use in executions. Since the drugs are untested, we have no idea what will happen. It is not fair for us to impose these untested (and, as the events in Oklahoma remind us, possibly unreliable) drug protocols on the dedicated staff of the Department of Corrections.

I am one of a growing number of Republicans and conservative Democrats across the state who have formed North Carolina Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty. We are advocating that we replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole, which would will prevent debacles like the Oklahoma execution. It is a tough punishment, and inmates with no hope of release certainly do not live on “easy street.” Life in prison without parole will mean life in prison without parole.

As a conservative seeking to find the best way to protect the residents of this great state from crime, I believe the death penalty has had its day in North Carolina. It is time to begin the debate on replacing the death penalty with life in prison without parole.

Mark E. Edwards

Chairman, Nash County Republican Party

Nashville

The length limit was waived for a fuller response.

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