Why the Death Penalty Should be Abolished
Updated: Nov 14, 2021
May 5, 2021
In the United States, 17 prisoners were executed in 2020. In 2010, that number was 46. The decline in executions over this past decade, and even the decades before, is a good thing; here’s why.
Some people think that the death penalty is a good solution to try and scare people away from crime. The idea that “if people think about the possibility of execution before committing a crime, they will most likely not commit the crime,” is logical in theory, but many crimes are committed in the heat of the moment due to intense emotions. Most crimes aren’t premeditated, and if someone is planning to commit a crime that could result in the offender being sentenced to the death penalty, that thought has most likely already occurred to them. The death penalty is a cruel way to remove individuals thought to be dangerous from society without offering them any chance for improvement.
The death penalty is not a good or effective deterrent for crime. There is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than a long prison sentence., According to a research paper written by the Committee of Law and Justice at the University of Pennsylvania in 2012, results from different studies are “widely varying, even contradictory.” It also states that “no connection has been established between these measures and the perceived sanction risks of potential murderers,” referencing the results of their research which were that the studies they had looked at were not sufficient proof that the death penalty acts as a deterrent for homicides.
Something else to take into consideration when thinking about the death penalty and the effects of it are the rates of homicide. In the United States in 2018, there were 5.0 murders per 100,000 people. That’s a very low rate, but we tend to hear more about the murders that do happen because of news coverage. The news is more likely to cover a murder than it is to cover someone shoplifting; therefore, people tend to think murder happens more than it does which can create the illusion that the death penalty is needed, and, without it, that communities won’t be as safe.
In 2018, Lindy Lou Isonhood did a TED Talk on her reflections on the death penalty as someone who had been a juror and sentenced someone to death. She recounted how she felt terrible after sentencing him to death and how even 12 years later, many of the other jurors that she contacted felt the same. This brings us to the next point - the death penalty is inhumane. Isonhood also spoke about how she contacted the attorney of the man who the jury had sentenced to death over a decade earlier, and she and the man became good friends before his execution in 2006. She talked about how she felt pressured to say yes to the man being sentenced to death, and that the criminal justice system backed them into a corner so that there was no way that they could say no.
It is known that the criminal justice system is unjust and favors white people over people of colour. The death penalty is no exception. The death penalty, in addition to being inhumane and unjust, is also extremely dangerous. In a lot of cases, there isn’t concrete evidence that could tie someone to committing a crime that they are sentenced to the death penalty for. In some cases there is, but, since 1973, over 150 people have been released from death row in the United States because they were innocent and many innocent people have been executed.
Imagine if no one got a second chance. Everyone would stay the same, no steps forward and no steps backward. The death penalty is just like this, except much more extreme. Prisons nowadays have workshops and rehabilitation programs where inmates are offered a chance for improvement. Unfortunately, the people on death row don’t get as much of a chance to benefit from these resources. While they can still take advantage of the opportunities, even if they make loads of progress, they won’t be released from death row. No matter how much guilt they show or how much they do to better themselves and give back to the community, they will still be stuck on death row.
One final reason that should be mentioned when it comes to reasons the death penalty should be abolished is that it is a waste of taxpayer funds. The reality is, people are usually more worried about their money and where it goes than other people. The FBI has found that states with the death penalty have the highest murder rates and police chiefs have ranked it lowest among ways to reduce violent crime, further proving that the death penalty has no real effect on crime and it is a waste of money while being inhumane.
The death penalty is a way of removing individuals from society to try and scare others away from having the same happen to them. It is inhumane and does not offer any real results on crime rates. In fact, it seems that the places with the death penalty have the highest homicide rates. The death penalty should be abolished, and while we are getting there, we have a long way to go.