The death penalty is not the most effective solution

Emma Stewart, Guest Writer

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In the movies, the bad guy is always caught and justice is always served. Well known films such as The Godfather, Indiana Jones, and Star Wars thematically follow this plot to get the bad guy. Society longs for justice. The truth is there will never be a perfect solution.  There always have been and always will be murder, rape, kidnapping, and other heinous crimes. There will always be broken hearts longing for justice. The death penalty is not the solution.


The death penalty is not the solution because it is irreversible. In 2014, seven individuals were released from death row. They were sentenced to death after being convicted of heinous crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. Is man capable of truly knowing the innocence or guilt of another? How then, is it acceptable to kill a human being, no matter the evil they reportedly committed?


The death penalty is not the solution because our justice system is fraught with bias. Black Americans are far more likely to be executed than White Americans. As stated by the American Civil Liberties Union, an organization purposed solely to defend and preserve the individual rights of Americans, from 1930 to 1996 there were 4,220 executions. 52% of those four thousand people were African American while only 13% of the general population is black, and the bias is not only ethnic. Individuals who commit crimes considered punishable by death, whom are wealthy, have a far less likely chance of being strapped to the chair. The wealthy have the resources to ensure the best possible defense, while those in the lower class are left with court appointed attorneys. Our justice system is imperfect and death is irreversible. We dare not risk taking the life of even one innocent person due to bias.


The death penalty is not the solution because it is less effective deterrent than life in prison. Numerous studies have shown no correlation between capital punishment and crime, in fact, during periods of time when it was unauthorized, crime was shown to decrease. If the punishment is incapable of inciting fear, what benefit is it to law enforcement?


The death penalty is not the solution because it is too costly. The alternative to the death penalty, currently, is life without parole in addition to restitution for the victim’s family. It is not considered an option to explore anything else, as the men and women on death row are not considered decent enough to let live. However, when faced with the option, Americans chose not to execute. According to Amnesty International USA, a human rights association, the median cost of seeking the death penalty is $1.26 million. It has been said that it costs less to execute a man than to keep him in solitary, but if you consider the costs of district courts where the death penalty is sought, this alone is about three times greater than the costs of cases that do not seek the death penalty. The Judicial committee in Kansas reports that this type of trial case is averaged at about $72,000, whereas a non-death-penalty seeking trial ends up around $21,000. If, instead, this money were put towards incarceration, a large sum of this cost would be lost.


The death penalty, and solitary confinement are not the solution because they are ineffective. The issue of cost is due to keeping prisoners in isolation. This segregation is used as a measure of punishment and protection, but is known to do more harm than good. Solitary confinement, without any kind of stimulation or human contact, is known to cause insanity and extensive psychological issues. So, what if stimulation is provided in the form of work? Allowing the convict to work not only protects the psyche, but would provide usable revenue that could provide for the cost of incarceration.


The death penalty is not the solution because it is cruel. Lethal injection is said to be the most humane way to execute, but how humane could it ever be to kill a human being? According to NBC News, groups representing pharmaceutical companies, amid pressure from anti-death penalty activists, voted to oppose supplying the drug cocktail used in lethal injection. Not only does supporting capital punishment largely cost the groups but it completely neglects the ethics of those in the medical field, to do no harm.


In our movies, Americans like revenge. We like to see the bad guy get gunned down. It makes for good entertainment, but revenge is not good social policy. It is too costly, irreversible, an ineffective deterrent, and is not equitably administered. The death penalty has been referred to as “cruel and unusual punishment” since the Declaration of Independence and that’s exactly what it is: unnecessary, callous, and socially acceptable murder. “An evil deed is not redeemed by an evil deed of retaliation. Justice is never advanced in the taking of human life,” Coretta Scott King said.  The death penalty should be banned.


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