Taking Sides: The Death Penalty SHOULD Be Abolished


Cartoonist: Charlotte Noller

Anna Childs, Columnist/Editor

As more and more states have begun to evaluate the necessity of the death penalty, the effectiveness and morality of such an extreme form of punishment have come into question. While some argue that it is a necessary evil to keep criminal activity under control, many wonder if this perceived benefit is really true, or if capital punishment is far too costly a practice, both culturally and fiscally.
The death penalty is simply too inhumane, outdated, expensive, and impractical to continue, and should be abolished across the entire country. While many argue that life sentences in prison are a “waste of taxpayer dollars,” the process of completing death penalty cases often takes many years and resources, ultimately costing even more than the alternative of a life sentence. In the majority of cases, the time between sentencing and execution spans many years, and this delay has only lengthened with time. In New York and New Jersey, the costs associated with the death penalty process were the primary reason that they chose to abolish it. New York spent around $170 million over nine years while New Jersey spent $253 million over 25 years, neither of which even had any executions (Dieter, R., “The Death Penalty is Too Costly For Society”).
Besides its immense cost, the alignment of the death penalty with our professed democratic values as a country is dubious at best.
A major facet of our fundamental rights as defined by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights is our right to life, laid out further as: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The line between torture and capital punishment is hard to draw, and this decision should not come at the expense of human lives that could be better dealt with by more effective, beneficial means.
Another flaw in this method is the fact that the decision to execute a prisoner cannot be remedied or undone, especially in cases where innocent people are subjected to an unfair judgment. Human bias and error are simply too big of a factor in the criminal justice system for lives to be gambled with. Oftentimes, the death penalty is really most effective in upholding oppression by governments who would rather take the most convenient route than attempt to better their respective societies. As Amnesty International puts it, “The reality of the death penalty is that what determines who shall be executed and who shall be spared is often not only the nature of the crimes but also the ethnic and social background, the financial means or the political opinions of the defendant. The death penalty is used disproportionately against the poor, the powerless, the marginalized or those whom repressive governments deem it expedient to eliminate.”
The greatest argument against abolition—the potential for capital punishment to deter crime—is supported by little evidence. A survey conducted for the UN found that “it is not prudent to accept the hypothesis that capital punishment deters murder to a marginally greater extent than does the threat and application of the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment” (Amnesty International). Additionally, there is no way to tell if a prisoner that has been executed would even continue to commit crimes, and it is unnecessary to resort to killing in order to prevent and control crime, when life sentences are just as, if not more, effective.