“Being on death row, It ain’t like nothin’. You don’t live for tomorrow, next week, or next month. Cause you don’t know if you’ve got tomorrow, next week, or next month. You live for today.” a quote by a man on death row. The death penalty also known as capital punishment. Is punishing someone via lethal injection after they are legally convicted of a capital crime. The death penalty has been around since man has begun committing crime. In the last few decades; 30 countries have done away with this form of punishment. However The U.S is one of 74 countries that still has not abandoned capital punishment. (Six Reasons to Oppose the Death Penalty) Which says a lot about a country whose constitution guarantees all men of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. The use of the death penalty needs to be eliminated because the risk of falsely accusing an innocent person is a risk too big to take and leaves prisoners with no chance of changing their ways and living a better life.
The problem at hand is that the death penalty is still an active method for punishing criminals. According to Six Reasons to Oppose the Death Penalty “In the U.S., more than 3,200 people live on death row”. Which is a lot considering that in state prisons alone the US has 1,316,000 prisoners currently locked up “Prison Policy Initiative”. There are better alternatives to the death penalty and they should be considered. 30 countries no longer use the death penalty however the United States is one of 74 countries that still does. (Six Reasons to Oppose the Death Penalty)
The number one problem with the death penalty is that it puts innocent lives at risk. Since the 1970’s there have been well over a hundred people who have been freed from death row after having been proven innocent and that’s just the lucky ones. DNA is the most efficient way of determining whether or not a person is innocent or guilty. As stated by Innocence, “DNA evidence exists in just 5-10% of criminal cases”. Which means authorities are forced to turn to other forms of evidence such as eyewitness testimony. In the state of Florida, “Frank Lee Smith was
sentenced to death […] on the testimony of a single witness. No physical evidence tied him to the crime.” (Innocence). Four years later the same eyewitness was shown a photo of another man, and realized the mistake she had made. Unfortunately Smith had already died in prison from pancreatic cancer.
Another problem with the death penalty is that it has no effect on crime whatsoever. Some people might argue that the existence of the death penalty would make would-be criminals think twice before commiting a crime. However the statistics say otherwise. “Among the 25 states with the highest murder rate, 20 have the death penalty […] Five states […] also have high murder rates but not the death penalty.” (Tures). 20 out of the 25 states with the highest murder rates have the death penalty. So the majority of the states with a high murder rate also have death penalty as a form of punishment. “Among the 25 states with low murder rates, 11 have the death penalty […] The other 14 states with low murder rates don’t have the death penalty.”(Tures). This is saying that the majority of the states with the lowest murder rates do not have the death penalty. In other words the existence of the death penalty has absolutely no effect on crime. If you are living in a state with the death penalty, you have just as good of a chance of being a victim of a crime as you would if you were living in a state without.
One possible solution to the death penalty is life imprisonment. Life imprisonment would be a better option because it eliminates room for error. If an innocent is convicted of a capital crime and that person was to be put to death. There’s no going back if that person were to ever be proven innocent. However if that person was sentenced to life in prison, and then later proven innocent. Of course nothing could make up for the time an innocent person was forced to spend behind bars, but it would far out way having no time left at all. According to The Facts: “In Oregon, we have the option of sentencing convicted murders to life in prison without the possibility of parole. There are currently 121 people in Oregon who have received this sentence.” This is saying that there is no possible way a convicted murderer would ever be released unless sufficient evidence were to emerge proving them to be innocent. The only other solution to the death penalty stopping or preventing crime all together. FBI.gov stated in 2016. There were 15,696 estimated murders, 90,185 estimated rape cases, and 327,374 estimated robberies nationwide in just one year. All of which are examples of Capital Crime. The Government needs to implement new ways of preventing crime possibly by educating people about the dangers and the risks of being involved with crime. Increasing police in order to stop crime before it happens would also be a possible crime solution. People would be less likely to commit crime if they knew there was a higher chance of being caught.
Some People Might argue that it is less expensive to execute prisoners as opposed to life imprisonment. Where food, housing, and other basic necessities would have to be provided. Executing a prisoner would save the government and taxpayers millions. However that is not necessarily the case “With the argument that life imprisonment with no parole is more expensive, opponents say that in general, the government spends more taxpayers’ money in handling cases of death row inmates. This is due to the length and complexity of trials, the number of defenders to be hired and the overall process” (Lombardo). Lombardo also states that; “There are two trials the state will spend for. One is for the verdict and another for the sentencing, not including the number of appeals that will be submitted while keeping the convicted prisoner inside maximum security.” The existence of the Death Penalty will in fact end up costing the United States Government and Taxpayers more in the long run.
All thing considered it would be in The United States best interest to eliminate the death penalty along with all the risks that go along with it. The fact that innocent lives are and could be hanging in the ballance is the number one reason the United States needs to get rid of the death penalty. There are too many things that could go wrong during a trial and too much room for error. Life imprisonment would be a better alternative. Executing Prisoners robs them of any chance of rehabilitation and change as well as proving themselves to the rest of society. There are few to none positive effects that the existence Capital Punishment has on the community and far too many adverse ones. Being on death row is a sad, lonely life that no one should be forced to live.
- FBI.gov. “Latest Crime Statistics Released” FBI, FBI, 26 Sep. 2016, https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/latest-crime-statistics-released. Accessed 25 Oct. 2018.
- “Innocence.” Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License., 2018, conservativesconcerned.org/why-were-concerned/innocence/. Accessed 25 Oct. 2018.
- Lombardo Crystal, “List of 10 Biggest Death Penalty Pros and Cons.” Green Garage, Crystal Lombardo, 2018, greengarageblog.org/list-of-10-biggest-death-penalty-pros-and-cons. Accessed 25 Oct. 2018.
- “Six Reasons to Oppose the Death Penalty | Campaign to End the Death Penalty.” Campaign to End the Death Penalty, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, 2018, www.nodeathpenalty.org/get-the-facts/six-reasons-oppose-death-penalty. Accessed 25 Oct. 2018.
- “The Facts: 13 Reasons to Oppose the Death Penalty | Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.” Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (OADP), 2018, oadp.org/facts/13-reasons. Accessed 25 Oct. 2018.
- Tures, John A. “Does The Death Penalty Reduce The Murder Rate?” Huffpost, HuffPost, 2 Dec. 2016, www.huffingtonpost.com/john-a-tures/does-the-death-penalty-re_b_13362760.html. Accessed 25 Oct. 2018.