Since the killing of George Floyd by a police officer, many changes to criminal justice have been proposed and some have been enacted. However, none of these reforms will be meaningful unless and until we require the government to dismantle the laws and procedures that implement the death penalty, an inherently biased and horrific practice. The fact that the federal government and twenty-seven states still have the death penalty reveals an attitude that is diametrically counter to the mindset necessary to end mass incarceration.

Before discussing the death penalty cases before the U.S. Supreme Court this term, consider the backdrop of last year’s Supreme Court term. From July 2020 through January 2021, the federal government went on an execution spree. After more than 17 years of no federal executions, the federal government executed 13 people in six months. Before this, Lewis Jones Jr. was executed on March 18, 2003 after President Bush refused to commute his sentence despite compelling evidence that he had been exposed to nerve gas while serving this country in the Gulf War.