The idea of putting another human to death is hard to completely fathom. The physical mechanics involved in the act of execution are easy to grasp, but the emotions involved in carrying out a death sentence on another person, regardless of how much they deserve it, is beyond my own understanding. However, this act is sometimes necessary and it is our responsibility as a society to see that it is done. Opponents of capital punishment have basically four arguments.
The first is that there is a possibility of error. However, the chance that there might be an error is separate from the issue of whether the death penalty can be justified or not. If an error does occur, and an innocent person is executed, then the problem lies in the court system, not in the death penalty. Furthermore, most activities in our world, in which humans are involved, possess a possibility of injury or death. Construction, sports, driving, and air travel all offer the possibility of accidental death even though the highest levels of precautions are taken. These activities continue to take place, and continue to occasionally take human lives, because we have all decided, as a society, that the advantages outweigh the unintended loss. We have also decided that the advantages of having dangerous murderers removed from our society outweigh the losses of the offender.
The second argument against capital punishment is that it is unfair in its administration. Statistics show that the poor and minorities are more likely to receive the death penalty. Once again, this is a separate issue. It can’t be disputed sadly, the rich are more likely to get off with a lesser sentence, and this bias is wrong. However, this is yet another problem of our current court system. The racial and economic bias is not a valid argument against the death penalty. It is an argument against the courts and their unfair system of sentencing.
The third argument is actually a rebuttal to a claim made by some supporters of the death penalty. The claim is that the threat of capital punishment reduces violent crimes. Opponents of the death penalty do not agree and have a valid argument when they say, “The claims that capital punishment reduces violent crime is inconclusive and certainly not proven.”
The fourth argument is that the length of stay on death row, with its endless appeals, delays, technicalities, and retrials, keep a person waiting for death for years on end. It is both cruel and costly. This is the least credible argument against capital punishment. The main cause of such inefficiencies is the appeals process, which allows capital cases to bounce back and forth between state and federal courts for years on end. If supporting a death row inmate for the rest their life costs less than putting them to death, and ending their financial burden on society, then the problem lies in the court system, not in the death penalty. As for the additional argument, that making a prisoner wait for years to be executed is cruel, then would not waiting for death in prison for the rest of your life be just as cruel, as in the case of life imprisonment without parole.
Many Americans will tell you why they are in favor of the death penalty. It is what they deserve. It prevents them from ever murdering again. It removes the burden from taxpayers. We all live in a society with the same basic rights and guarantees. We have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness with equal opportunities. This is the basis for our society. It is the foundation on which everything else is built upon. When someone willfully and flagrantly attacks this foundation by murdering another, robbing them of all they are, and all they will ever be, then that person can no longer be a part of this society. The only method that completely separates cold blooded murderers from our society is the death penalty.
As the 20th century comes to a close, it is evident that our justice system is in need of reform. This reform will shape the future of our country, and we cannot jump to quick solutions such as the elimination of the death penalty. As of now, the majority of American supports the death penalty as an effective solution of punishment.
“An eye for an eye,” is what some Americans would say concerning the death penalty. Supporters of the death penalty ask the question, “Why should I, an honest hardworking taxpayer, have to pay to support a murderer for the rest of their natural life? Why not execute them and save society the cost of their keep?” Many Americans believe that the death penalty is wrong. However, it seems obvious to some Americans that the death penalty is a just and proper way to handle convicted murderers.
The majority of Americans have a clear and strong stance when it comes to the death penalty, no matter which side of the debate they sit on. Supporters of this punishment argue that it serves as a deterrent to crime, and that justice is being served. My personal stance on the death penalty is that it is an outdated and ineffective punishment, serving no true benefit to society and causing more harm than good to society as a whole.
When looking at the argument that the death penalty serves as a deterrent to others thinking about committing the same crime, we need only look to other countries around the world as examples to disprove this. Throughout the world, we are able to see that, in those countries where there is no death penalty, murders and other violent crimes happen at a much lower rate than in the United States. It does seem counter-intuitive, but the evidence is clear.
We can also clearly see that, in the United States, many people still commit these horrendous crimes, knowing full well that capital punishment exists. In the heat of the moment, when a person is not thinking clearly and logically, the existence of the death penalty and the possibility that they could be facing this punishment does not typically cross their mind, and cause them to alter their behavior. The consequences of their actions are not at the forefront of their minds while they’re in the midst of carrying out those actions. We can see this in the consistent, and increasing, number of violent crimes being committed year after year in this country.
There have also been widely publicised cases of wrongly convicted individuals, who were either put to death or were awaiting their punishment, that were revealed to be innocent. In the cases where the death penalty had already been carried out, it was too late for those innocent people. And, in the cases where innocence was discovered in time, we can only be thankful that it wasn’t too late. There are definitely cases of people being wrongly accused and convicted, and for each case that’s brought to light, we must keep in mind that there are likely more that we’ve never – and will never – hear about. Having even one innocent person put to death wrongly is a crime unto itself.
We must also look at the mental competence of the individuals being convicted and sentenced to this punishment. If a person is not mentally capable of processing and understanding the actions they have committed, it is ethically wrong to execute them for this.
When looking at the ethics of capital punishment, it’s also essential to assess whether or not it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. There have been advancements in the technologies being used to enact the death penalty that are designed to lessen the pain and suffering a person endures. But, in reality, the only individuals who can attest to their effectiveness are those being executed. We cannot say for certain whether or not someone suffered unduly while they were being executed, whether everything worked as it should to ensure a quick and painless death.
And, yes, there are those who will argue that a death marked by pain and suffering is a part of the justice being served. But, as we try to hold ourselves as a nation to a higher standard than our worst criminals, we should at the very least allow our justice system to work as it should, according to the Supreme Court. And, nowhere in history has the Supreme Court ever advocated for the use of cruel and unusual punishment. We would like to think that we have more compassion and humanity than those who have committed such horrendous crimes, and as such, we should demonstrate this by showing them the humanity they denied someone else, not by sinking to their level.
The argument for or against the death penalty has been passionately argued throughout our nation’s history, with each side having their own strong viewpoints. When we look at the evidence from around the world on the effectiveness of capital punishment as a deterrent, as well as the ethical dilemma of potentially executing innocent or mentally incompetent individuals, it is easy to see that the practice of capital punishment offers no benefits to our society.