Tennessee prison released Gaile Owens, a woman who spent the past 26 years on death row and came within just two months of being executed, on Friday, from the Tennessee prison for women. She was put on death row for hiring a stranger to kill her husband in 1985. Last year, her death sentence was dropped to life in prison, which, at the time, was a 30 year sentence and she was released early on good behavior.
Owens, who was a battered wife, did not use her husband’s abusiveness as part of her defense because, her supporters say, she did not want her sons to find out about the physical and sexual abuse. However, Governor Phil Bredesen, who made the decision to spare her life, said he made the decision because, he said, prosecutors had tried to cut a deal with Owens saying that if she pleaded guilty they would not seek the death penalty. However, her co-defendant would not accept the plea bargain and Owens was put on trial.
This is yet another case that shows the inefficiency and unjust death penalty system. For 26 years, this woman was kept on death row, at a cost that is shown to be as much as 3x more expensive than a sentence of life without parole, due to the single-person cells and increased security measures. Taxpayers pay hundreds of millions of dollars per state to keep up this costly, not to mention, immoral, program. What’s more, the state of Tennessee came dangerously close to executing a victim of sexual and physical abuse by her husband, and needlessly taking another life.
Luckily, Gov. Bredesen had the courage to not allow this to happen. What we need to see in this country is more of the same. Right now, in 34 states in the U.S., as of Jan. 2011, 3251 people are on death row (http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/). With a financial crisis going on in this country, would it not be beneficial for everyone to end this program that dumps millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars into a system that the majority of Americans don’t even support? And what’s more, the U.S. prides itself on being a leader in human rights, yet we have thousands of people on death row, a system that Europe, and many other countries, have already done away with.
It is time to end this terrible system that has proven itself to be ineffective and unjust. Please contact your representatives and tell them to end the death penalty!
(Photo credit: AP)