Looking out: Death penalty

Issue 

The call for swift execution of 13-year-old Nathaniel Brazill, who was suspected of shooting a school teacher to death earlier this year, sparked controversy.

Many people all over the world are joining the struggle against death as a punishment. In light of the controversy mentioned above, it is apparent that, although anti-death penalty factions may want the United States to stop executing juveniles, to focus on reform for only that particular segment of the population is a mistake.

Not long after the US Supreme Court lifted its ban on executions in 1976, Michael Bowers, who then was the attorney general in Georgia, chose John E. Smith, a white man, to be the first to die in Georgia's electric chair.

After that, the rate of executions here at Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison grew rapidly (Georgia has electrocuted 23 people since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976). For years, the demise of Mr. Smith was widely considered to be Georgia's "token White execution" because of the disproportionate number of black men who were then executed. You see, after his demise the floodgate to routinely kill black men was opened — and has been kept open — by the state's judicial racists.

I was asked by one of the many racist corrections officers here, "When you goin' to write 'bout how many blacks they killin', but still ain't kilt but one white?".

Of course, I chose not to answer him. First of all, I knew that this officer was — and continues to be — very pro-death penalty. What he really is concerned about is that the killing does not stop so he can keep making the extra money that working on death row brings.

Secondly, I could not, in good conscience, support the killing of more whites. To do so would, no matter how unintentionally, give support to the death penalty.

I have shared this tiny portion of my life here on Georgia's death row with you to emphasise that unless we stand, united, entirely against it, to those across-the-board-supporters of executions in general it will appear that we also selectively support the death penalty.

BY BRANDON ASTOR JONES

[The writer is a prisoner on death row in the United States. He welcomes letters commenting on his columns (include your name and full return address on the envelope, or prison authorities may refuse to deliver it). He can be written to at: Brandon Astor Jones, EF-122216, G3-77, Georgia Diagnostic & Classification Prison, PO Box 3877, Jackson, GA 30233, USA, or email <BrandonAstorJones@hotmail.com>. Jones is seeking a publisher for his autobiography, Growing Down. Please notify him of any possible leads. Visit Jones' web page at <http://www.BrandonAstorJones.com>.]

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