Joe Biden cannot leave the lives of those on death row in the hands of future presidents. If he truly opposes the death penalty, he must do everything in his power to stop it for good. Granting clemency to all on federal death row is his most effective tool.
The fact of the matter is that these death sentences aren’t about justice. They’re about who has institutional power and who doesn’t. In January, I will begin representing Missouri’s 1st District, and that’s the kind of power my community has been historically denied. Our neighborhoods are too often subjected to structural violence at the hands of the government: police violence, immigration violence, prison violence, the death penalty and poverty. Black and brown people in communities like mine, when arrested are more likely to be convicted and receive harsher sentences than our white counterparts. A justice system that actually hands out justice isn’t as cruel, violent and racially biased as the one we’ve got.
But it doesn’t just happen in St. Louis. This happens nationwide. Black and brown people are overrepresented on death row and in the larger prison system. This is all despite a 2014 study by the National Academy of Sciences that revealed 1 out of every 25 people on death row is innocent. Credible allegations have been made of jurors’ racial bias in administering death sentences, and more than 170 people have been exonerated after being wrongly convicted and sentenced to death, but the government continues to wield its capability to murder in the name of justice.