NEW VOICES: Former Police Chief Says Pennsylvania's Death Penalty Is "Broken"

Terence Inch, a former police commissioner in Hellam Township, Pennsylvania, recently wrote in support of Gov. Tom Wolf’s moratorium on executions and pointed to the mistakes that can happen in high-profile crimes: “In the aftermath of a brutal homicide, particularly one involving multiple victims or children, there is enormous pressure on law enforcement to solve the case and to solve it quickly…In the rush to solve these high profile cases it is easy to make mistakes, or to ignore evidence that points away from the ‘person of interest.’” He pointed to the numerous exonerations of death row inmates, including six in Pennsylvania, as evidence of the risks in capital prosecutions: “Mistakes happen too often, as evidenced by the fact that 150 men and women in the United States have been convicted and sent to death row - only to be released when conclusive evidence of their wrongful conviction emerged.” He also noted the high cost of capital punishment in the state: “Pennsylvania has spent upwards of $350 million dollars on a death penalty system that has produced just three executions since 1999. All three of those executions involved men who voluntarily gave up their appeals. The system is obviously broken.”

Inch recommended using the money spent on the death penalty for more effective ways of fighting crime: “If the state of Pennsylvania and its counties redirected the enormous financial and human resources that they currently spend on seeking death sentences[,] … that will actually make our communities safer. That includes improving our crime labs; solving unsolved rapes and murders; increasing access to mental health, drug, and alcohol treatment; and expanding programs that have been shown to effectively address the root causes of crime; we could actually substantially improve public safety.”

(T. Inch, “Take it from an ex-cop, the death penalty is as fallible as the humans who carry it out,” Patriot-News, op-ed, March 2, 2015). See New Voices and Innocence.