The present system of retributive justice , based on punishment and infliction of pain, serves to continue rather than stop, the cycle of violence. It magnifies the racism, classism, and sexism of our society. Prison promotes crime by relieving the offender of responsibility for his or her actions. Obsession with security obscures the considerable evidence that the more prisons we build, the less safe we become.
Greens proceed from the basic assumption that all life is connected- what we do to others we do to ourselves- and that means and ends are inseparable. The death penalty contradicts these views presented in the "Peace and Non-Violence" section of the Green Program.
All methods of state-sanctioned execution are violent. Executions convey the message that violence is an acceptable means of solving the problem of violent crime. In fact, executions distract our attention from the challenge of finding effective solutions to the real roots of violent crime. States which allow the death penalty most often have a higher murder rate than those states without the death penalty.
The death penalty is racist . Defendants who are persons of color constitute an inordinately high percentage of inmates on death row. The majority of people executed since 1930 have been people of color. An inordinately high percentage of people executed for the crime of rape have been African-Americans. While the vast majority of people executed are convicted of killing white persons, approximately half of all homicide victims are African-Americans.
Executions do nothing to solve the problem of violent crime. Each state sanctioned death only brutalizes us as us as individuals and as a society.
Violence against women and children is endemic in our society in the form of rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, incest and other child abuse. A majority of women experience sexual abuse at some time in their lives. The Center for Disease Control has identified domestic violence as one of the most serious threats to the health of women today. Gender bias in the criminal court system results in drastically higher prison sentences for women who kill their partners than for men who kill their wives or girlfriends. There are many more animal shelters in this country than there are battered women's shelters.
In accordance with the Green values which espouse non-violence and strive to build a non-patriarchal world, we must transform the values and institutions which foster violence against women and children. Some steps toward this goal will include supporting services for the survivors of rape, domestic violence and child abuse, and eliminating gender bias in the criminal and civil court systems.
Green justice systems include both the offender and person who has been victimized. They must be based in love , compassion, non-violence and humility, while at the same time provide protection for those who have been harmed and for the rest of society. New strategies such as victim-offender reconciliation and other community -based programs should be explored. We need to end the state monopoly on "corrections" and embrace decentralized models of doing justice. We must enlarge the focus of the justice system to emphasize white-collar and corporate crime, and environmental crime as well as street crime. Instead of removing the offenders, be they individuals or corporations, from the consequences of, and responsibility for their actions, green justice systems should involve them as much as possible in the process of restoration and compensation for what they have done.
Restorative and transformative justice would emphasize crime prevention by looking at the systemic roots of crime in inequality and alienation. In a just society , built on Green values, crime may not disappear, but it will not be a fact of life.