Why the death penalty should be eliminated

By Alayna Jernigan | 10/25/17 8:43pm


“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind." -Mahatma Ghandi 

This is a quote to live by. Wanting retribution on someone for committing a heinous crime like murder is an understandable reaction, but killing someone should not be allowed as a punishment because the criminal justice system is not perfect. 

There have been plenty of times when prosecutors and the public believed that someone was without a doubt guilty but then new evidence surfaced that proved that they were wrong, and if that person had been executed rather than put in prison for life, there would have been no way to make the situation right. The government is given the power to take someone’s life, but this isn’t a power anyone should be granted, especially in a system that is proven to be flawed.

In the U.S., the first recorded execution was in 1608 when Capt. George Kendall was revealed to be a spy for Spain. Since that first execution, there have been many changes to the practice of capital punishment regarding which states utilize it, which crimes are considered a punishable offense and which ways are considered okay to execute someone. 

Today, there are 31 states with the death penalty, and all those states use lethal injection as the primary method of execution. The backup methods or methods that offenders can choose depending on which state they live in are electrocution, hanging, firing squad and gas inhalation. Under federal law, aggravated murder and crimes against the state (i.e. treason) are considered capital crimes. 

The death penalty isn’t automatically applied to capital crimes, but the prosecution has the right to seek the death penalty for these crimes and then go through a series of different reviews to decide if the evidence is substantial enough in their eyes. The death penalty is used because the threat of it is believed to deter someone from committing such heinous crimes, but crime rates are not drastically dropping because one is afraid of capital punishment.

According to the Carter Center, the homicide rate is five times greater in the U.S. than any Western European country without the death penalty. Also, within the U.S., Texas has the most executions, but its homicide rate is twice that of Wisconsin's. There is no concrete evidence to prove that the death penalty and the number of capital crimes being committed have a correlation.

The topic of whether the death penalty should be illegal or if it’s justifiable has been a continuous conversation for years that hasn’t ended with it being universally enforced or altogether abolished. Unless the crime is taken on by the federal courts, it is up to the states to decide if they want the death penalty to be illegal or not. People who are for the death penalty believe that it deters crime, costs less than life imprisonment and helps give the victims' families closure. People who are against the death penalty say it doesn’t deter crime and gives the government too much power.

No matter what checks and balances the government tries to put in place, the death penalty should not be legal because there is no way that they can be 100 percent sure they are prosecuting the right person, and death is irreversible. The constitution protects the people of the U.S. from cruel or unusual punishment, and in my opinion, lethal injections and other forms of execution are cruel because they inflict pain on the person until death occurs, and they are unusual because it is not a form of punishment used for all criminals. 

If you want a person to suffer and face consequences for their actions, then having to sit in a cell for the rest of their life and think about their actions is torture enough, especially since jail is far from comfortable.

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