The death penalty has been in place in the United States since its foundation, however in the last few decades it has become increasingly controversial. In recent years, many people have begun to question whether it is an effective method of punishment, or if the death penalty should remain. In a perfect world capital punishment, would be an acceptable punishment, however in our society there are many outside factors that have influenced and challenged the efficacy and efficiency of the death penalty. From execution methods to wrongful convictions, there are numerous issues that plague capital punishment.
Opponents of the death penalty claim that life in prison should be the alternative punishment for crimes such as murder. While many murderers are sentenced life in prison without the chance of parole, this punishment is too lenient for certain crimes. The death penalty itself is not wrong, however there are many faults with our legal and social system surrounding capital punishment. Faults in our criminal justice system do not mean the punishment is wrong, nonetheless the punishment may not be a suitable punishment if there is unfairness in the sentencing of criminals.
Some supporters of the death penalty claim that the death penalty will decrease violent crime and murder rates. This idea has not been proven by any evidence, and therefore opponents of the death penalty often use this as an argument against the death penalty, claiming that there is no evidence to prove a decrease in murder. While the death penalty may not be a proven deterrent, it can still decrease crime by giving them a chance to be released. The argument can also be made that if knowing there is a possibility of getting put to death, that even one person may not kill another being.
If even one person does not commit murder because of the punishment, then it will have helped protect an innocent life. Considering criminals continue to murder with the death penalty in place, then it is clear it is not a good deterrent. However, those same people who kill are inevitably sacrificing their right to live or be free. If one chooses to take the life of another human with intent to do so, then it is only fair to assume they are sacrificing their freedom and right to live as well.
Capital punishment is a well-known form of punishment in America, therefore if one is to kill, then it should be assumed that they also likely know of the inherent risks of doing so. There would be no need for a death penalty if people did no kill others. To seek retribution or revenge for those who have been killed is a logical form of punishment. Killing a murderer not only sends a message to future potential murderers, but it may bring some peace to the family of the decedent.
If the family of decedent wishes for the death penalty, then it is only fair to attempt to sentence the murderer in that fashion. By knowing that is the families wish, the jury and judge and assume that is also likely the same position the victim would have held. Thus, the murderer will not only be punished fairly, but also in a means in which the victim likely would have agreed with. When victims of crimes are alive, they have a say in the punishment process and pressing charges, however if the victim is dead they have lost all say in how the offender is punished.
If the victim has family, it is essential to include them in the debate of what is a fair punishment, without their knowledge of the victim the form of punishment administered may not reflect the ideals of the deceased victim. If the murderer is left in prison for life the family may never have a sense of closure or redemption, and in a scenario where a loved one is gone, that is all that they can hope to receive. In certain situations, the killer may be affected by severe mental illness or other extreme situations.
In these scenarios, it has been seen that they are more likely to receive life in prison, because it is argued that they may not have known that the act of killing was wrong or that they were insane. The act of killing another human being can be a complex affair, and therefore the death penalty is not a one size fits all sentence. Mental health can be directly tied to the killing of others, and it can be argued that no murderer is in good mental health otherwise they would not have committed a crime.
Not every murderer is suffering from a mental illness, or suffering from one that is treatable. It is inexcusable to claim all murderers are too mentally ill to be sentenced to death. Some murderers may not truly grasp the severity of their crime. For that reason, not all killers deserve to die, however murderers should still face the possibility of retribution by those affected by the loss of a family member or friend. While some killers are exempted from the death penalty, others are targeted specifically for it, when the crime at hand my not be warranted of such a punishment.
In the United States, copious amounts of people are wrongfully sentenced for crimes they did not do. Whether they are found guilty by incompetency of attorney or by other forms of bias, it occurs daily. A study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that from 1973 through 2004 an estimated four percent of inmates on death row could be innocent (Gross, et al. 2014). Unfortunately, there will always be a risk of convicting and executing innocent people.
To combat the issue of executing innocent citizens, a grace period of sorts should be implemented before a prisoner can be executed. Currently most prisoners already wait years on death row before they are executed, but a new system could give a uniform time before a prisoner could be executed. This time would be long enough that modern technology could be developed to bring forth new evidence. During this period, if the inmate was wrongfully convicted by fault in the court process, then they can attempt to a fair appeal.
If the convicted person has been convicted because of racism or some other bias, there should be a process of appeal with a new court possibly in a new area, where they can present their evidence of their innocence and why they believe they were tired improperly. If the court agrees then they can move forward with exoneration or lessening of the sentencing if guilty of a different crime. Obviously, this solution is not a perfect one, but realistically there is no one size fits all solution, there will always be issues and unfairness because humans are imperfect beings.
An effective method of appeal or retraction of sentencing would be a lengthy endeavor, but it may drastically reduce those who are wrongfully incarcerated for murder. Nonetheless to fix certain institutional issues it would also require extensive re-writing of current laws, which is unlikely to happen. Before institutional changes can ever occur widespread reporting of the current flaws must be brought to light by the majority population. In states like California, executing prisoners has almost completely stopped. People continue to be sentenced to death, yet very few are ever put to death.
In the last forty years only thirteen inmates have been executed in California, yet hundreds are on death row. Housing these inmates is a very expensive burden for tax payers, and keeping prisoners alive that were meant to be put to death adds to the expense. If the death penalty is to remain and exist, it needs to be utilized and carried out. The main benefactor of the death penalty would be tax payers. In states with high amounts of death row inmates, it would save millions of dollars annually by being more efficient with executions.
If the intent is to put an inmate to death, then it should be carried out, and if the state does not carry out executions then remove it from the equation and leave life in prison. Life in prison could be an alternative for certain states, which would leave inmates knowing their fate, while not constantly waiting to be put to death eventually. The death penalty should exist, but it should only exist if we as a nation can carry it out fairly, effectively, and humanely. It is wrong and unfair to leave inmates waiting multiple decades, and appeal after appeal just to die in the end.
Just as it is wrong to disproportionately sentence African Americans the death penalty, when the murder may be a better fit for life in prison. Capital punishment is the most extreme form of legal punishment in the United States, and it should also only be used in the most heinous of crimes. Those who have committed first degree murder, or murder of multiple people are undoubtedly prime candidates for the death penalty. If the murderer has planned, and carried out a murder then they are deserving of the same punishment to be given to them.
The other type of crime that may warrant the death penalty is treason. In certain cases, committing treason could lead to the deaths of many. If the accused traitor gives intelligence information to an enemy foreign nation, then either Americans or others could end up dead following repercussions or attacks. This is an uncommon issue in today’s world, however with technology increasing and America’s global presence, the odds of treason occurring are at an all-time high.
Whether it be murder or treason, they are willing and knowingly attempting to harm other people, with the intended goal being the death of other innocent people. Certain other crimes may be violent in nature or damaging for life, however there will always be a chance at a full recovery. If someone is killed, there is no coming back, and for that reason the murderer should never be allowed to re-enter society or continue to be in its habitation. Capital punishment is one of the most difficult form of punishment to discuss because there are so many factors involved with it, and so many people are currently on death row.
Capital punishment has been a part of American society since before the constitution, however in todays’ climate it has become a much more contentious topic. All things being equal and fair, the death penalty is a suitable punishment for a select number of crimes. It is a very complex issue, and context on the crime is essential. If the murder was a crime of passion versus a premeditated killing, changes the entire reason for killing and will also change the outcome in trial. Even in the twenty-first century, America is plagued by racial issues and divide.
These issues become extremely apparent when confronting the death penalty. Based upon the disproportionate targeting of African Americans for the death penalty, and slow speed in which it can be carried out, the death penalty is currently not and adequate form of punishment. If inmates can be incarcerated without definitive proof, and executed upon falsities, or held nearly indefinitely until it is finally carried out, then it is not an effective form of punishment. Killing a murderer or traitor, if proven guilty, is acceptable; but in America it is never that simple.