Lessons from Death Row Inmates: Reform the Juvenile Justice System
What happens before a murder? In looking for ways to reduce the number of death penalty cases, David R. Dow realized that a surprising number of death row inmates had similar biographies. In discussing the need for comprehensive intervention for economically disadvantaged and otherwise troubled kids, Dow explains:
“For every $15,000 that we spend intervening in the lives of economically and otherwise disadvantaged kids in those earlier chapters, we save $80,000 in crime-related costs down the road. Even if you don’t agree that there’s a moral imperative that we do it, it just makes economic sense.”
Dow is the Litigation Director at the Texas Defender Service and the Founder and Co-director of the Texas Innocence Network, an organization in which law students provide pro bono legal services to investigate claims of actual innocence brought by Texas prisoners. Dow is also a professor at the University of Houston Law Center. He writes on contract law, constitutional law and theory, and death penalty law, and has most recently published a book called The Autobiography of an Execution, partly a memoir and partly about the politics of capital punishment. In the past 20 years Dow has defended over 100 death row inmates, many of whom have died — and most of whom were guilty. But according to an interview with Dow, “They should have been sentenced to life in prison instead of death at the hands of the state.”
In this June 2012 TEDx talk David Dow proposes a bold plan, one that could help prevent murders in the first place. It is powerful and well worth your time.
The post above is reprinted with permission from the Juvenile Justice Blog.
Tamar Birckhead is an associate professor of law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she teaches the Juvenile Justice Clinic, the Criminal Lawyering Process, and Juvenile Courts and Delinquency. Her research interests focus on issues related to juvenile justice policy and reform, criminal law and procedure, indigent criminal defense, and the criminalization of poverty. Prior to joining the UNC School fo Law faculty in 2004, Birckhead practiced for ten years as a public defender in Boston, Massachusetts. She received her B.A. in English Literature from Yale University and a J.D. with honors from Harvard Law School.