Within the developed world, just one country still practices capital punishment: the United States of America. All others have banned the practice for various reasons, yet a majority of Americans still support the existence of the penalty. However, support has been falling since the mid-1990’s, and eleven states have banned it or suspended it in just the last ten years. Regardless of popular support or opposition to the practice, we should examine its impacts and costs in order to come to a science-based opinion on whether to abolish the practice like the rest of the advanced world.
In other areas of crime like drug use, most Americans support the effort to rehabilitate rather than punish offenders. In regard to murder, however, Americans see punishment as more important. Let’s face it–the person in question ended the life of another human being. Should they really be allowed to live any longer if they stripped life away from someone else? That is the thinking of capital punishment supporters, and it is reasonable logic.
If the choice is between life in prison or execution, what would truly be more punishment? Since rehabilitation is not really on the table for such a person since they are to be in confinement forever, we ought to consider which would cause the convicted felon to truly experience repercussions for their crime. I argue that life in prison is more of a punishment than death causing them to spend potential decades doing almost nothing but think about what they did.
Additionally, should we as a society seek to practice “an eye for an eye” in our morality? Shouldn’t we as a developed society seek to be better than the worst in our communities? If we believe that murder is reprehensible in all cases other than self defense, then we ought not justify the murder of another person–even if that person killed someone else. Our goal in the justice system should merely be to keep that person removed from society preventing them from causing more danger and giving them the time to think about how what they did was so wrong. Execution does not allow for that processing.
So if the death penalty does not make sense in theory, perhaps it makes sense in practice.
Well, the evidence finds that capital punishment has no effect on deterring future crime. Criminals do not stop themselves from committing murder when they remember that they could be killed for their act. Thus, there’s no argument for the death penalty in this regard.
How about cost? One could hypothesize that executing a person would cost less to the government than would keeping that person alive for decades potentially. Data show that the actual trial, housing of a death-row inmate, and appeals process costs up to ten times more than such for a convict not given the penalty. The trial cost two to four times more; the appeal takes up to forty-four times as long; housing around two times more. Ultimately, taxpayers foot the bill for the death penalty.
Thus, we have found that capital punishment does not prevent future crime, does not save money but actually costs much more, does not reflect our value to better than the worst of us, and does not truly punish a person more for their crime. The death penalty should be abolished not to protect murderers but rather to establish our nation as one of higher morality and practical sense.