CATEGORIES: PUBLIC POLICY
There’s no question that violent crimes such as rape and murder should receive severe punishment. Not only do we owe it to the victims to deliver adequate punishment to fit the crime, but we must also protect society from further violence by making an example of the culprit.
However, once the ‘dust has settled’ and agents of the state become involved, capital punishment loses all its utility. After examining the finer details, it is clear that governments on all levels should abandon this archaic form of ineffectual punishment.
The simplistic defense of the death penalty uttered by its proponents is the Old Testament refrain of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” To that end, were a victim of an attack to end the attacker’s life, few would begrudge that individual. Yet in the case of capital punishment, leadersof nearly all faiths deem it a barbaric and anachronistic practice, the denouncement of which is a moral imperative.
The most compelling case against capital punishment is the exoneration of the wrongly accused. Jailhouse snitches often state mistruths to lessen a sentence, and in some cases even the innocent confess to crimes they did not commit due to intense interrogations by overzealous police officers; both are factors which lead to false convictions.
With a better understanding of DNA, 329 people have been sentenced to die and later found innocent (20 people made it to death row before being released). Almost all of these former inmates have been compensated by the taxpayer, as they should be, increasing costs that will be discussed later in more detail.
Supporters of capital punishment perpetuate the falsehood that execution is cheaper than life in prison. On the contrary, death row housing costs 200% more per day than housing an inmate among the prison’s general population, and the appeals process exhausts 44 times more public defender hours than an appeal of a life sentence. Death penalty proponents might then suggest altogether eliminating the appeals process; this is constitutionally impossible and rightfully so.
The penalty is not applied equally with just 15 women executions in the modern era and historically although the numbers are all over the place the ratio of 99% men 1% women is consistent. Furthermore the punishment is applied to African Americans in startling numbers. An overwhelming majority of the 329 death row exonerations were African American men (205), are a disturbingly congruent 86% of inmates on military death row.
The only reasonable conclusion is that any government official concerned with taxpayers should abolish (or put a moratorium on) the death penalty if they are able to by charter or constitution. The return on taxpayer investment is a net negative: 88% of criminologists surveyed assert that capital punishment does not reduce violent crime, and states that apply the death penalty consistently have higher violent crime rates than states that have abolished the practice.
The penalty is expensive and discriminatory and outside of the accepted norms of modern society… with more effective alternatives, it’s just a matter of time.