Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and colleagues have announced that they will lead more than 70 of their colleagues in soon reintroducing the Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act of 2021, bicameral legislation to prohibit the use of the death penalty at the federal level, and require re-sentencing of those currently on death row.
The announcement comes with three more people scheduled to be executed in the final days of the Trump administration.
“State-sanctioned murder is not justice, and the death penalty, which kills Black and brown people disproportionately, has absolutely no place in our society,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “Ending the federal death penalty— which is as cruel as it is ineffective in deterring crime—is a racial justice issue and must come to an end. We must finally abolish this inhumane form of punishment and put an end to Donald Trump’s unprecedented killing spree. I am grateful for the partnership of incoming Chairman Durbin and my colleagues in this effort.”
Despite overwhelming evidence against the death penalty, the Trump administration has executed 10 Americans since resuming federal executions for the first time in 17 years on July 14, 2020. The United States stands alone among its peers in executing its own citizens, a punishment that denies the dignity and humanity of all people and is disproportionately applied to people who are Black, Latinx, and poor. For example, Black people make up less than 13 percent of the nation’s population while accounting for more than 42 percent of those on death row. A nationwide study found that at least one in 25 people sentenced to death are innocent, while research has shown that capital punishment does not deter crime.
Polling in 2019 demonstrated that the majority of Americans no longer support the death penalty. Many conservative leaders have called for an end to its use because it is costly, ineffective, and inaccurate. Carrying out these executions during the pandemic has been particularly expensive, with an estimated cost of more than $900,000 per execution.
The Federal Death Penalty Prohibition Act of 2021 would end the use of the death penalty by the federal government. Specifically, the bill would prohibit the imposition of the death penalty as punishment for any violation of federal law and would require the re-sentencing of those previously sentenced to death row. The legislation was originally introduced by Rep. Pressley and Sen. Dick Durbin in July 2019 following the U.S. Department of Justice’s announcement that it would resume the use of the death penalty.