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 TED 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.

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About Tamar Birckhead

School of Law
This entry was posted in Books, Death Penalty, Media, Organizations, Sentencing. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Lessons from Death Row Inmates: Reform the Juvenile Justice System

  1. tbirckhe says:

    Thanks to our friends at Reclaiming Futures for reprinting this blog post: http://www.reclaimingfutures.org/blog/lessons-death-row-inmates