One of the most controversial practices, not just in the US but all over the world, is capital punishment. Capital punishment – or the death penalty – is the idea that a criminal can be put to death for the crimes that he or she has committed. Some of the capital crimes include murder and treason; however, in some countries, other crimes, such as blasphemy, drug smuggling, as well as adultery, have been considered as capital crimes and people have been executed for committing such crimes. Currently, 31 states in the US have the death penalty, that is, people who are convicted of capital crimes in these states can be sent to their deaths, whereas 18 states have abolished it. The thing to note is that death penalty is something that should be abolished across all the states, as it is cruel, pointless (that is, it does not deter crime), it can be extremely expensive for the government and the justice system, and it can result in the death of innocent people.
The death penalty is a cruel punishment and it works to go against the idea of the right of people to live. A human life is extremely precious and it is not something that can be taken away like that. The thing to note is that many people want to install the death penalty because of the adage “an eye for an eye,” but that only means revenge and not justice (Celizic). When a person is put on death row, it can take several years until the death penalty is actually carried out. This long wait that the person on death row has to endure can be extremely cruel. No human being should be made to go through such torture. Other than that, the act of killing the convict is also a cruel act. Two wrongs do not make a right. If the murderer is being punished for killing, how can killing that murderer – the same act that the murderer is being punished for – be considered moral and right?
Many people tend to argue against this and they say that murderers deserve to die. This is because they talk about how the murderer took the life of a person and now his or her life must be taken away from the murderer as well. Other than that, the main argument for this is that such a punishment is depicted through Biblical and religious views. If God has depicted that a murderer should be killed, then it is the right thing and that is the rule and law that the humans should follow as well.
Another argument for the abolishment of the death penalty is that it does not deter crime. It is something that can be seen as an “an empty threat… no reasonable criminal should be deterred by it” (Levitt and Dubner 93) and that “if the death penalty were assessed to anyone carrying an illegal gun, and if the penalty were actually enforced, gun crimes would surely plunge” (Levitt and Dubner 94). The thing to note is that most of the homicides that occur are crimes of passion. This means that they occur in the heat of the moment and are not premeditated. This is why the murderers that are caught tend to talk about how they got so angry and impassioned in the moment that they did not think about the consequences of their actions at all. This is why the death penalty should be abolished because it does not work as a deterrent and it is useless. Research has shown that the death penalty is not only useless in itself but that it is counterproductive to achieving its goals. It does not reduce crime at all (Nagin and Pepper 33).
Those that are for the death penalty argue that it does work to deter crime. For instance, many people do not go out and murder and kill others because they are afraid that they might get caught and would be sent to their deaths as well. The proponents of the death penalty believe that people are not going to commit murders if the punishment for the murder was that they were going to get executed. Nevertheless, this is something that is not as easy to contend, as there are many states, such as California and Arizona, where the death penalty is imposed, yet the number of murders continue to rise. This shows that the death penalty does not actually reduce crimes or deters them.
The death penalty also has to be abolished because it costs the taxpayers a lot of money and it can be a great burden on the governments as well as the criminal justice system (Breyer 112). The thing to note is that after a person has been given the death penalty, a long appeals process has to be started. This is a process that can take years. This means that during this time, the government not only has to bear the cost of the prisoner living on death row, but at the same time, has to cover the cost of lawyers, judges, courts, as well as other legal aspects and fees. Overall, it has been found that it would be much less expensive to keep a convict in jail for the rest of his or her life than to put that person on death row and execute that person. This is another very important reason why the death penalty should be abolished because it is extremely expensive for the government and the people.
However, many people argue against this. They talk about how it is going to be much more expensive to keep the prisoners in jail for the rest of their lives. This is because the prisoners are going to receive food, as well as medical services while the criminal is in jail (Derrida 12). The costs of keeping the criminals alive and in jail are going to be much more because the more criminals are going to be in jail, the more jails the government would have to build. Thus, the counterargument here is that it is much less expensive for the state and the criminal justice system to execute a person accused of capital crime than to keep him alive for the rest of his or her life in prison.
Finally, we find that the criminal justice system is not perfect. This can mean that there can be errors and mistakes made that can end up sending an innocent person to his or her death with regards to execution. Several cases have emerged over the past many years in which convicts have been exonerated of their crimes before they have been executed (e.g. Tolson). Despite losing a large chunk of their lives living behind bars, such people have been lucky, as there have been several cases in which people have already been executed and it has been later found that they were innocent, such as the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, a father who was convicted or arson and killing his own children, later executed, after which evidence came out that he was innocent and he never started the fire (Dioso-Villa 817). This is perhaps one of the most important reasons why the death penalty must be abolished, as it can lead to innocent people being put to their deaths. Even if one innocent person is put to death because of wrongful conviction, it should be enough to put doubts into the system and result in the death penalty being abolished.
The counterarguments that people have for this is that even though the death penalty might mistakenly put an innocent person to death, it does more good by being in place, which is why according to the ethical theory of utilitarianism, it achieves the correct and moral end. In this regard, such people tend to view the wrongful executions of innocent people as collateral damage. They talk about how such things might occur, but they are the costs that we have to pay for keeping the people at bay and to stop them from committing capital crimes.
Thus, we find that the death penalty should be abolished across all the states in the US. As noted herein, we find that the death penalty is something that is very cruel, as it is taking the life of a human being, and human lives are extremely precious. Other than that, we find that the death penalty is pointless, as it does not work to deter crime. People continue to murder each other despite knowing that the death penalty is in effect and many people do not think of the consequences when they murder their victims. Furthermore, we find that the death penalty is extremely expensive and it can be a great burden on the state as well as the taxpayers. Finally, we find that the death penalty is being administered in an imperfect system where an innocent person can be (and several have been) sent to their deaths through executions. It is for all these reasons that the death penalty should be abolished across all the states.
Breyer, Steven. Against the Death Penalty. Brookings Institution Press, 2016.
Celizic, Mike. “Somer’s mom: Death penalty would be ‘fair’.” MSNBC. March 29, 2010. Web. November 7, 2016. http://www.today.com/id/36080274/ns/today-today_news/t/somers-mom-death-penalty-would-be-fair/
Derrida, Jacques. The death penalty. Vol. 1. University of Chicago Press, 2013.
Dioso-Villa, Rachel. "Scientific and Legal Developments in Fire and Arson Investigation
Expertise in Texas v. Willingham." Minn. JL Sci. & Tech. 14 (2013): 817.
Levitt, Steven D. and Dubner, S. J. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the
Hidden Side of Everything. Harper Collins: New York, 20015, pg. 93-94.
Nagin, Daniel S., and John V. Pepper, eds. Deterrence and the death penalty. National
Academies Press, 2012.
Tolson, Mike. “Texas sets man free from death row,” Houston Chronicle. October 27,
2010. Web. November 7, 2016. http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Texas-sets-man-free-from-death-row-1619337.php#page-1