WASHINGTON, DC - Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) made the following statement in response to reports of the Justice Department’s decision to resume executions of federal prisoners after a 16-year hiatus.
“The Justice Department’s decision to resume execution of federal inmates is either a continuation of the President’s campaign of chaos and distraction from his ongoing legal troubles or the result of a philosophy rooted in cruelty and division. Whatever the reason, the decision is wrong.
“Capital punishment is cruel and unusual and has no place in modern, civilized society. Today, the United States is the only Western, industrialized nation that still kills its own citizens. As the world has transitioned from authoritarian states to democracies, the use of capital punishment has faded away, with exceptions like Turkey and the Philippines noted for human rights concerns. Last year, only six countries executed more people than the United States: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Iraq, and Egypt, company we should not want to keep as we craft our policies.
“In 2007, while I was serving majority leader in the New Jersey General Assembly, New Jersey abolished the death penalty, becoming the first state to do so by legislative means. We made the decision, after a lengthy deliberative process, that the arbitrary and irrevocable nature of capital punishment made it incompatible with the concept of criminal justice, and we decided to move in a better direction. Our state is stronger for it.
“I am deeply disturbed that after 16 years without an execution, the federal government will resume state-authorized killings. At the outset of this administration, there was a spark of hope that we’d reimagine a better, fairer criminal justice system in a bipartisan fashion. This move will do the opposite. I implore the Justice Department to reconsider its decision.”