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Published: Tuesday 29th of October 2013
It goes without saying that death penalty is a hotly debated and controversial subject, especially in these days. Many countries around the world have already outlawed this form of punishment, while others, such as the US, opt for capital punishment on the level of the state. Even so, opinions are divided, since there are many people who claim there are many tangible reasons why this form of punishment should be abolished rapidly, but at the same time, there are others who agree with it, especially when it comes to punishing serial killers or to those who have harmed a large number of other people.
The idea of punishing someone by condemning them to death was brought over to this land from Britain, when the independence was declared. Back then, death penalty was considered part of our ancestors’ lives and it was given for a range of crimes. For instance, the first death penalty ever recorded in America dates from 1608 and it happened in Jamestown, when someone called George Kendall was sentenced to death for treason.
During the 19th century, things changed a lot and the major change was that executions were no longer performed in public, as it was used to, but in private and the first state to make this change was Pennsylvania. The following years, up to 14 out of 50 states no longer utilized the death penalty as a form of punishment.
It’s generally agreed that the capital punishment is the most contested and debated area of the entire world of justice. Times have changed a lot in the past few decade and people have been raising the same question several times now: “Should death penalty continue to be legal and used as a form of punishment?”. Nowadays, people have a completely different approach when it comes to crimes and other acts of delinquency compared to the attitude our ancestors had a few hundreds of years ago. People have come to a point where they don’t agree anymore with this harsh form of punishment – the death penalty.
This is why many have started to create campaigns and tried to take actions in order to abolish this from the justice system. Here are some very good reasons why this should happen: First of all, death penalty should disappear, because it’s not moral, it’s not a humane form of punishment, despite those arguments related to being ethical in the case of certain crimes. Secondly, viewing this from an empirical perspective, this punishment won’t help in deterring various types of crimes.
Thirdly, it’s considered to be an unsound practice from an economically point of view, not to mention that it will cost all taxpayers a lot of money.
Of course, these are only three of the many reasons why people consider abolishing the death penalty is a good measurement that should be taken fast. Many agree that the United States should take these aspects into account and consider putting to rest this unethical and uncivilized form of punishment, especially because it is based on an outdated mentality of “an eye for an eye”.
At a quick glance on the subject, whenever someone is being asked whether the death penalty should persist from a moral viewpoint, most people would probably say that it should be abolished. After all, if you take someone else’s life, what does that prove of your punishment? The only mindset present here is that of “an eye for an eye”, which believe it or not, it’s still a common conviction nowadays. Society must prove that such beliefs have remained in the past and that they should have a more civilized behavior, even in the case of criminal sentencing an individual who has committed horrific crimes.
The rationale that stands behind this form of punishment doesn’t fit a crime. There have been many cases of individuals who failed to be rehabilitated and reintegrated among others, but this doesn’t give the justice system to sentence that individual to death. The current system of justice allows the state to establish the one action that was thought to be the worst type of crime one can commit as a form of punishment. It seems illogical, but it’s the truth. No one can actually justify, with relevant and strong arguments carrying out an action that everyone agrees it’s the worst of all. As a result, this punishment is both contradictory and morally impermissible.
One very good example of a category of people who receive death penalty are those with mental or physical problems, such as the mentally retarded persons. It’s true that their percentage in the US is quite low, less than 3% actually, but out of this percentage, up to 12%, according to Tabak & Lane, are on death row. The main reason why this happens is that many people are of the opinion that these mentally retarded individuals tend to answer “yes” to questions they are being addressed, solely because they have this intense desire of pleasing their interrogators. Thus, it can be stated that people with such mental issues shouldn’t receive the capital punishment.
Another highly controversial aspect related to capital punishment is related to flawed executions. Throughout time, the death penalty took several different forms and was carried out in a range of ways. This happened because people were searching for the most humane method possible to terminate the life of the one condemned. Nevertheless, regardless of the method chosen, there have been numerous cases of flawed executions and attempts, which ultimately led to causing the condemned intense suffering and pain. Probably one of the most conclusive and relevant example here is the practice of hanging. During the 19th century, one common death penalty form was that of hanging people. The condemned had to be brought in front of the public, which outrageously, had to look at the hanged condemned struggling for around five minutes before that person gave their last breath.
The electric chair has also been condemned for many years by many people. The procedure implied that the criminal was subjected to several other attempts before the final “act” of actually killing him was carried out. This happened to John Louis Evans III.
You should know though that the more modern means of execution are not flawless either, as it is the case of lethal injection. In 1989, Stephen McCoy was condemned to death penalty by lethal injection and according to those who had to witness his death, the criminal struggled a lot before he died. The drugs the doctors administrated him made him to cough violently, to gag and to undergo some strange and hard-to-watch body contortions.
These are only a few examples, because in reality, they are many more. All of them illustrate that the justice system doesn’t lack flaws and that something has to be done quickly. It’s immoral for someone with clear conscious and judgment to sentence a person to death if that might cause them severe pain, because this way the Bill of Rights is violated, and the judicial branch has to ensure that it is always followed precisely.
One very good argument that tries to convince the justice system that applying the capital punishment is not a good idea is that this type of penalty doesn’t necessarily help in lowering the number of crimes committed.
People who support death penalty are of the opinion that applying this punishment to people who have committed horrible and outrageous crimes will scare the others who think to commit similar crimes and convince them not to do those crimes anymore. However, striking fear into the hearts of potential murderers doesn’t necessarily mean that it will stop them from doing whatever they had in mind. In most cases, death penalty is given to those people who committed the most violent, outrageous and gruesome acts of crime, not to mention that the great majority of these people are mentally unstable. As it was mentioned before, you cannot condemn to death a person that is mentally unstable for a crime they committed, because they will always believe that what they did was right. They have no regard for their acts and for their own safety, not to mention about the safety of those surrounding them. Thus, sentencing a criminal to death to make them an example for the other criminals won’t make much of a difference.
But can death penalty actually work? Well, according to some studies and as it was earlier stated, it doesn’t provide the desired effect on people. In 2003 for instance, there were more than 16.500 murders in the US, but a much lower number of perpetrators were ultimately given the capital punishment, around 140 actually. Also, out of nearly 3400 inmates that were placed on death row, no more than 65 of them ended up being executed that year. There’s a clear discrepancy between people being condemned and people being executed, and this doesn’t actually appear that frightening to uncaught murderers.
One very strong argument against utilizing death penalty as a form of punishment is that it costs the taxpayers a great deal of money. You might be tempted to say that keeping an individual in prison for the rest of his or her life is the most expensive form of punishment, but the truth is the cost of executing that individual is higher than anything else. And there are many studies that prove this. For instance, there was a case in the US that resulted in capital punishment and that cost $2 million more than in the case of applying a different type of punishment, such as a certain number of years in prison.
Other studies suggest that a great deal of the money taxpayers from the state of Maryland provided in the past two decades were used for executions and death penalties. Thus, it goes without saying that the government has to take this into account if they choose to continue with applying the capital punishment further on. That high amount of money spent on the lengthy process before the execution proceeds can easily be used in other means that are more beneficial to the society. The best example here is the state of Kansas, where the death penalty was abolished, thus helping the state save nearly $500.000 per each case. Also, in Colorado people are thinking about proposing a task force that allows them to utilize the money saved and to try solving the cases that have gone unsolved over the course of last decade.
These are some very simple, yet important examples on how abolishing the death penalty can benefit the community, the state and even the country as a whole. The financial benefits that a country or a state has from outlawing the capital punishment definitely outweigh all the reasons for maintaining this extreme, harsh and outdated form of penalty.
If all these examples mentioned above are not enough to convince the justice system to abolish the most controversial forms of punishments of all, maybe the examples from other countries would do the magic. There are numerous countries around the globe where the death penalty is no longer in use and they seem to work more than fine without it.
The United States is seen as one of the world leaders, which means that it has the responsibility and obligation to establish a strict, yet moral and ethical set of standards that the rest of the countries can aim at and aspire towards. In an article published in the Huffington Post, it is specified that the US is part of the 10% of the countries in the entire world that still accepts this form of punishment and carries out executions, not to mention that it’s the only Western democracy country that does this. Other countries that have this form of punishment even today are North Korea, China, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Somalia and Iraq. Most of these nations are definitely not among those the US would want to associate with.
In most cases, the countries that accept death penalty are ruled by brutal, harsh and powerful forms of dictatorship, which is definitely not the case of the US. Even so, this outdated form of punishment is still applicable here today. Outlawing this penalty, the US will become more civilized and join the ranks of the other countries that don’t allow this penalty.
America has been the image of a free world for a few decades now, so it’s its duty to maintain this image, to keep the American Dream alive and to show respect to the Bill of Rights that every human being has. This nation must take a standpoint and to prove the rest of the world that they have a committed stance against death penalty, which is the most savage form of punishing someone who broke the laws.
It’s time the United States learns something from other countries that are, obviously, more civilized and that treat the human rights with respect. In order to remain among the top 5 most powerful countries in the entire world, it’s absolutely necessary for some things to change and starting with abolishing the death penalty is a good idea.
Considering all the reasons mentioned above regarding the elimination of this cruel form of punishment – death penalty -, rational individuals shouldn’t be left with the feeling that this practice is still viable and a choice that the American Justice System can opt for. It’s sufficient to say that our society has come to a time where the human rights must be respected and days where the “an eye for an eye” statement was legit are long gone, especially because in the opinion of many people, this practice is childish. The judicial system should spend more time and reflect this.
Society shouldn’t keep this practice alive anymore, even if killing a murderer prevents them from committing any more crimes. Furthermore, the arguments that were also presented in this essay show clearly that the capital punishment is not a viable practice due to at least three major reasons: it’s immoral, it doesn’t deter crime and it seriously affects the economics of the state and all the taxpayers within the state.
What is more, this barbaric form of penalty places the United States in a position on the world stage that they don’t want to and it seriously affects their image worldwide. It’s the only Western democratic country that still allows the utilization of death penalty and it’s placed on the same level as other countries that accept death penalty and that have a governing system based on dictatorship.
Based on these aspects and rationales presented above, it’s more than clear that the United States should take quick and serious actions and exclude the death penalty from the types of punishments utilized by the judicial system, regardless of the type of crime they are judging.
If nothing will happen to put an end to this terrible practice, it’s believed that the number of people coming to the US, whether the are investors and want to start businesses here or they are merely visitors and want to spend their money on holidays in this country, will significantly lower in the future years. It’s true that every person in the country, whether they are legal citizens or temporary visitors, want to feel safe and secure here, but this doesn’t mean that by executing everyone who committed horrific crimes will make the country any safer. It’s best to think of other practices through which these murderers get their punishment and without prevailing their rights. By killing murderers, the system doesn’t prove to be any better than those committing crimes, but on the contrary, it proves to be just like them, with the only exception that the system is protected by laws, compared to the murderers, who are not. Thus, no matter how difficult it may be, people have to find a way to make things right without violating any human right or law.