Taking a stand on the death penalty

Regarding "Despite reprieves, 3,500 still on death row in the US" (Sept. 4): Death-penalty opponents are misreading the tea leaves. The article states that "far fewer criminals are getting death sentences today than [they] did a decade ago." Of course. During the past decade - a period of dramatic increases in executions - US murders have decreased by about 40 percent. A similar reduction in death sentences would be expected.

Other death-penalty opponents, such as Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center, see such reduction as "juries' increasing unwillingness to impose the penalty" because of fairness issues "and states' reluctance to pursue the death penalty" because of cost issues. Really? In the years 1990-1991, we sentenced 1.1 percent of our murderers to death. In years 2000-2001, it was 1.2 percent. The "increasing unwillingness" and "reluctance" don't appear that obvious.

From 2000-2003, general support for the penalty increased from 66 to 74 percent. And this is with a virtual media blackout on seven recent studies, all showing a deterrent effect of the death penalty. The most meaningful poll in measuring support is in specific cases. One poll shows 81 percent of Americans supported the execution of Timothy McVeigh, reflecting an all-time support peak.

They did so for only one reason: justice.
Dudley Sharp
Resource Director, Justice For All

Thank you for your Sept. 8 editorial "Death-Penalty Mistakes." It has long troubled me that the United States continues to be among the few advanced nations that apply the death penalty. I believe it to be a barbaric practice. I am convinced the basic rationale for capital punishment is vengeance, as the editorial states. There is virtually no scholarly evidence that it lessens crime. I hope to see the day that it will be found unlawful under the US Constitution.
Franklin W. Dunlap
Laguna Hills, Calif.

What to do with elderly inmates

Regarding your Sept. 5 article "As prisoners age, should they go free?": My concern is what happens to these people on the outside? Many aren't eligible for Social Security and Medicare and would be a burden on their families. This needs to be considered case by case. Just because someone is 70 doesn't mean he isn't a danger.
Barbara Gill
Edgewater, Colo.

I have done seven years in the Florida state prisons, and I feel that elderly inmates should be released. They do not get the kind of care in prison that they need, and I don't feel that they are a threat to the community. They should be able to go home and spend their last few years with their families. It is cruel to keep them in prison, where they don't get proper medical care. They are treated the same way as all other inmates; they are made to do the same jobs, and they have to stand in very long lines at the canteen in the heat for long periods of time. There is so much more that goes on inside that people don't realize.
Tammy Baggett
Pinellas Park, Fla.

Pull the plug on technology, sometimes

Regarding the Sept. 5 Opinion piece "A summer epiphany: With tech toys, less is more": At last, a voice of reason amid the maddening hubbub of techno-madness. I was about to throw out the cellphone, computer, remotes, and Internet until I read Jerry Lanson's piece. It's all about self- discipline. We have to learn to say, "That's it," and switch off. We do not have to be connected all the time.
Silla Grobbelaar
Johannesburg, South Africa

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