The United States government is set to resume enforcement of capital punishment, following an announcement made on Thursday by Attorney General William Barr.
The Department of Justice, in its official release explaining the decision to re-start executing individuals, said the decision came about as part of an examination of “five death-row inmates convicted of murdering, and in some cases torturing and raping, the most vulnerable in our society — children and the elderly,” ABC News reported.
The statement also stated that Barr had already begun the process of executing those criminals, and had directed the Acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons to “schedule the executions” of those individuals. If those individuals do indeed happen, they will be the first federal executions carried out since 2003.
“The Justice Department upholds the rule of law — and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system,” Barr said in a statement.
Opponents of the death penalty believe the practice to be inhumane and beyond the Constitutional limits of “cruel and unusual punishment.” They also cite the fact that many times, people get sentenced to death even though they’re innocent.
Since the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1973, at least 165 people who were on death row were exonerated — or around three to four exonerations per year, on average, CNN reported.
In 2014, former President Barack Obama directed the Justice Department to review the practice of capital punishment, particularly as it pertained to use of lethal injections, PBS NewsHour reported. In its announcement on Thursday, the Bureau of Prisons announced it had completed that review, and could confidently move forward with executions in the future.