The Republican Party, Conservatives, and the Future of Capital Punishment

31 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2017 Last revised: 26 Jul 2018

See all articles by Ben Jones

Ben Jones

Pennsylvania State University


The United States has experienced a significant decline in the death penalty during the first part of the twenty-first century, as death sentences, executions, public support, and states with capital punishment all have declined. Many recent reforms banning or placing a moratorium on executions have occurred in blue states, in line with the notion that ending the death penalty is a progressive cause. Challenging this narrative, however, is the emergence of Republican lawmakers as champions of death penalty repeal legislation in red states. This Article puts these efforts by Republican lawmakers into historical context, and explains the conservative case against the death penalty: its incompatibility with limited government, fiscal responsibility, and promoting a culture of life. Understanding Republican opposition to capital punishment takes on particular importance now following setbacks to efforts against the death penalty in the 2016 election. In this environment, building support among Republicans and conservatives likely will prove critical for taking further steps toward limiting and eventually ending the death penalty in the U.S.

Keywords: Death Penalty, Capital Punishment, Republican, Conservatives, Supreme Court, Criminal Justice Reform

Suggested Citation

Jones, Ben, The Republican Party, Conservatives, and the Future of Capital Punishment. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 108, no. 2 (2018): 223-252. Available at SSRN:

Ben Jones (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

University Park
State College, PA 16802
United States

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