NEW VOICES: Former County GOP Chair Says Death Penalty Violates Conservative Values

Steve Monks, a former Durham County, North Carolina, GOP Chair, recently called for an end to the death penalty in the state. Earlier in June, legislators voted to repeal the Racial Justice Act, which had allowed death row inmates to challenge their sentences using statistical evidence of racial bias. Monks wrote in an op-ed in Plain Talk Politics that the most recent attempts to reform capital punishment in the state are strong indications that “the system will never work properly.” Monk encouraged conservative Republicans to reexamine the death penalty in light of the system’s additional costs compared to life without parole, the risks of wrongful executions, and its failure to bring closure to murder victims’ families. Monk concluded, “The time has come for conservatives here in North Carolina to ask ourselves if the death penalty really fits with our values. We all want a smaller, more efficient government that does not abuse its power, along with swift and sure justice… Let’s put an end to North Carolina’s seemingly endless death penalty debate by simply bringing our politics in line with our conservative principles – wasteful government programs that don’t work and go against our values should be ended.” Read full op-ed below.

Guest Opinion: Steve Monks, Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty

As legislators in Raleigh once again fiddle with our state’s death penalty, some of us who are conservative republicans are at the point where we’ve had enough. The most recent attempts to modify North Carolina’s death penalty, yet again, are the latest indications that the system will never work properly. Conservatives across the nation are waking up to this the fact. I know about it firsthand because my brother, who lives in Houston, Texas, is a founding member of a group called Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty.

My brother’s group is part of a growing number of people on “the right” who are openly questioning whether the death penalty serves any good purpose for our society. Conservatives are asking these questions precisely because we are conservative republicans.

The group exhibited at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington and the reaction made it clear the stereotype about conservatives all supporting capital punishment is completely invalid. Their booth in the exhibit hall at CPAC was busy throughout the 3-day conference and the statement they kept hearing from people was, “I am so glad to see you here, I thought I was the only one…”

Conservative Republicans have every reason to reexamine capital punishment. The death penalty system’s additional costs compared to life without the possibility of release are beyond dispute. The trials, with so much at stake, are necessarily expensive and the appeals can take decades because of the real concern of executing innocent people. Attempts to “fix” the system to make it faster have repeatedly failed precisely because of the innocence issue; more than 140 death row inmates have been released after evidence came to light that they were wrongfully convicted.

For the families of murder victims a death sentence almost always represents a false promise – 3,000 inmates on death rows and 43 were executed last year – while the murder victims’ families are sentenced to navigate the system for decades with no end in sight.

Along with the excessive costs to taxpayers, the risk of killing innocent people, and the impact on victims’ families, many conservatives can offer another compelling reason; our pro-life beliefs. We are increasingly re-thinking the death penalty because of its many problems, but also because of our respect for human life.

The time has come for conservatives here in North Carolina to ask ourselves if the death penalty really fits with our values. We all want a smaller, more efficient government that does not abuse its power, along with swift and sure justice. After all, isn’t this part of what conservatives stand for? Well, our system of capital punishment is anything but swift, small, efficient and sure.

Let’s put an end to North Carolina’s seemingly endless death penalty debate by simply bringing our politics in line with our conservative principles – wasteful government programs that don’t work and go against our values should be ended.

(S. Monks, “Guest Opinion: Steve Monks, Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty,” Plain Talk Politics, June 17, 2013). See New Voices and Recent Legislation.