FILE - Dick Durbin

Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, listens to witnesses during a Senate Judiciary Committee nominations hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2019.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is pushing to abolish the federal death penalty after President Donald Trump’s administration announced it will be resuming executions again for the first time since 2003. 

Durbin’s bill would “prohibit the imposition of the death penalty for any violation of Federal law, and for other purposes.” Durbin said Illinois eliminated the death penalty eight years ago and, “We should do the same at the federal level,” he said in a news release.

The bill is one of a handful that has been filed in Congress this session. Durbin’s bill is co-sponsored by Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Bernie Sanders, an independent seeking Trump's job. 

“Try as we might, we cannot escape the fact that the death penalty in America is disproportionately imposed on minorities and poor people,” Durbin said in a statement. “Supreme Court Justices Harry Blackmun and John Paul Stevens both declared their opposition to the death penalty by the end of their judicial careers, recognizing the system to be deeply flawed.”

Jennifer Vollen-Katz, CEO of the John Howard Association, said too many people on death row have been exonerated. 

“Our criminal justice system is grossly imperfect and to think that we have enough certainty of who people are and what happened to think the punishment should be death is simply outrageous,” she said. 

Illinois put a moratorium on the death penalty in 2001 and abolished it in 2011.

Gallup polling shows a majority of people support allowing the death penalty, but that figure has been slowly falling. 

Staff Reporter

Cole Lauterbach reports on Illinois government and statewide issues for The Center Square. He has produced radio shows for stations in Bloomington/Normal and Peoria, and created award-winning programs for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.