Capital Punishment Is Dead Wrong This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

July 27, 2008
Murder is wrong. Since childhood we have been taught this indisputable truth. Ask yourself, then, what is capital punishment? In its simplest form, capital punishment is defined as one person taking the life of another. Coincidentally, that is the definition of murder. There are 36 states with the death penalty, and they must change. These states need to abolish it on the grounds that it carries a dangerous risk of punishing the innocent, is unethical and barbaric, and is an ineffective deterrent of crime versus the alternative of life in prison without parole.

Capital punishment is the most ­irreparable crime governments perpetrate without consequence, and it must be abolished. “We’re only ­human, we all make mistakes,” is a commonly used phrase, but it is tried and true. Humans, as a species, are famous for their mistakes. However, in the case of the death penalty, error becomes too dangerous a risk. The innocent lives that have been taken with the approval of our own government should be enough to abolish capital punishment.

According to Amnesty International, “The death penalty legitimizes an irreversible act of violence by the state and will inevitably claim innocent victims.” If there is any chance that error is possible (which ­there always is), the drastic measure of capital ­punishment should not be taken. Also, it is too final, meaning it does not allow opportunity for th accused to be proven innocent, a violation of the Fifth Amendment which guarantees due process of law.

District Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ­argued against the death penalty: “In brief, the Court found that the best available evidence indicates that, on the one hand, innocent people are sentenced to death with materially greater frequency than was previously supposed and that, on the other hand, convincing proof of their innocence ­often does not emerge until long after their convictions. It is therefore fully foreseeable that in enforcing the death penalty a meaningful number of innocent people will be executed who otherwise would eventually be able to prove their innocence.”

As humans, we are an inevitable force of error. However, when a life is at stake, error is not an option. The death penalty is murder by the government. As a nation, we have prided ourselves in our government, its justice and truth. However, can we continue to call our government fair if we do not hold it to the same rules we do its people? Murder by a citizen will have consequences, yet a government-approved ­murder is not only acceptable, but enforceable. What message do we send the American people, and other countries, for that matter, if we continue to be a ­nation that kills its citizens, a nation that enforces the most barbaric form of punishment?

The Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty states, “We don’t cut off the hands of thieves to ­protect property; we do not stone adulterers to stop adultery. We consider that barbaric. Yet we continue to take life as a means of protecting life.” No person, government-affiliated or not, has the right to decide if another human is worthy or unworthy of life. Our natural rights as humans, which cannot be taken away by the government, include the right to life. Humans are not cold metal coins that lose value; no act, no matter how heinous, can make a person less of a human being. However, for most it is easy to ­forget that each of the 1,099 executed since 1977 are fellow humans, not just numbers.

According to Amnesty International, “The death penalty violates the right to life.” Capital punishment contradicts our moral beliefs and claims of a fair and just government. The U.S. must join its political ­allies – including Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, South Africa, and most of Latin America – that have abolished the death penalty.

The death penalty is favored by some as an effective deterrent of crime; however, it is proven that states with the death penalty actually have higher murder rates than those without. It is proven that our nation does not need this extreme threat of punishment to prevent crime. In 2006, the FBI Uniform Crime Report revealed that the area of the U.S. that was responsible for the most executions (the South with 80 percent) also had the highest murder rate, whereas the Northern areas that had the fewest ­executions (less than one percent), had the lowest murder rates.

It can be said that the death penalty is the most overlooked form of government hypocrisy; we murder people who murder people to show that murder is wrong. It is this contradiction in policy that confuses criminals and undermines any crime deterrence capital punishment was intended to have.

Many people favor the death penalty as reparation for the wrong done to a victim’s family; however, in most cases, closure is not the result. Losing a loved one, no matter how that person is lost, is unbearable, irrevocable, and shattering. Pain like this is shocking and the victim’s family holds onto the hope that the execution of the murderer will bring relief and closure. Nevertheless, when execution day arrives, the pain is not eased. No relief can be gained, for their pain is an unavoidable, natural process of life. Victims’ families have founded such groups as the Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation and The Journey of Hope, which oppose the death penalty. They ­believe that they are different from those who have taken their loved ones and they demonstrate their ­difference by refusing to sink to a murderer’s level.

Capital punishment is immoral and a violation of natural rights. It is wrong for everyone involved: the prosecuted innocent, criminals, victims’ families, and our nation. We need to replace the death penalty and capital punishment with life without parole, a safer and more inexpensive option. The death penalty does not guarantee safety for innocent victims, it does not follow the goals and promises of our nation, it does not effectively deter crime, and it does not give closure to victims’ families. Nothing good comes of hate, and nothing good can ever come from capital punishment. It cannot continue to be accepted by a nation that claims to have liberty and justice for all. The death penalty is murder on the sly and it’s dead wrong.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 472 comments. Post your own now!

heaven_sent_666 said...
Jan. 6, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Hey, I just found this article today and I think it is very well written, but I respectfully disagree.

Though forgivness is important and killing is wrong, the death penalty is necessary. Without it, the jails would become overcrowded (like they are in some states already) and it would cost more to feed the prisoners. It costs money to keep these guys in jail - taxpayers money - our money. And why should we have to waste our money on killers and rapists.

I also feel that th... (more »)

heaven_sent_666 replied...
Jan. 25, 2011 at 5:03 pm
So its not really the death penalty that is the problem, but our country's crooked way of ensuring us that they're doing their least that is what I get out of what you just said.
Hawthorn replied...
Feb. 10, 2011 at 4:40 pm
Algae administration?
Aspiringauhor replied...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 12:10 pm
Actually, jails won't become overcrowded if we make the death penalty illegal. Other people who don't have life sentences can get out, creating more room for other prisoners. Prisons are fine. As for the money argument: The death penalty costs roughly six times more than keeping someone in prison for life. You tell me which you (or your parents) would rather pay. I am under the impression that less money paid is better. In your opinion, getting killed is getting off easy. I'm sorry if this is of... (more »)
forever_an_artist replied...
May 20, 2011 at 1:29 pm
Aspiringauhor; I think you have been misinformed on that one. I was just researching this and death penalty is certainly NOT six times the cost of prison for life. It varies; and the main expense is not the penalty, it's the investigation leading up to that, which is approx. twice the cost of prison for life. 
Aspiringauhor replied...
Dec. 3, 2011 at 6:48 pm
It varies on which state it's occurring in. But no matter what, the death penalty is more costly.
reneej said...
Jan. 6, 2011 at 8:26 am
I totally agree with you! I think life in prison is way worse than the death penalty
AlyBug replied...
Jan. 6, 2011 at 1:19 pm
totally true. there were times i wish my uncle was dead but hes in prison. i just want him to feel sorry for what he did to me. i do want him to suffer tho but if hes dead he cant feel sorry
EemVee said...
Jan. 3, 2011 at 8:46 pm
*typo: i meant disagree
EemVee said...
Jan. 3, 2011 at 8:45 pm

wow! i had a whole seminar discussion on this with my classmates and the majority of them said that criminals that commit heinous acts should have a death penalty!

i tottaly agree because we are not going to make justice by killing a person! We should seek for a diffrent tactic where they will learn their lesson. Killing a living person is inhuman, wrong and it won't get us anywhere!

Velithell said...
Jan. 3, 2011 at 6:16 pm
Urgh. Saying someone deserves to die is....sick! I'm sorry if this is mean, but NO ONE deserves to die at the hand of another!
Babygirl809 said...
Dec. 20, 2010 at 3:58 pm
Don't get me wrong your article is good. I think that maybe we shouldn't use the death penalty as much. This is going to sound bad but... some deserve to die. Some crimes are unforgivable.  
Harvardstar replied...
Dec. 23, 2010 at 12:17 am
but taking away the murderer's life wont change the fact someone died
Babygirl809 replied...
Dec. 23, 2010 at 3:54 pm
Maybe but it will make sure the person doesn't hurt anybody else. 
Sri P. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 6, 2011 at 4:56 am
that's what life in prison is for.
heaven_sent_666 replied...
Jan. 6, 2011 at 2:21 pm
but there are always prison breaks and some jails are becoming so overcrowded that they just let criminals go. Not to mention tax payers have to keep paying to feed them and everything. and according to my cousin, jail isn't all that bad (and he should know that more than anyone since he's been there 12 times.)
Aspiringauhor replied...
May 1, 2011 at 10:49 am
Yes, but how often do you hear about prison breaks? Not very often at all. I don't think I've ever heard of one. If your cousin has been there 12 times, he obviously hasn't been there for long periods of time. Prison gets a lot worse if you're there for the long run. Also, taxpayers also have to pay for the death penalty, which costs six times more than life in prison with no parole.
sweet_silent_surenity said...
Dec. 16, 2010 at 12:07 am

Take note that I am not commenting on the content of this essay, nor on your individual opinion. Thus, my comments are purely feedback on the layout of the essay. Because of your forward opinion, stated in the first paragraph, it is obviously an opinion piece. This opinion is restated over and over, not just again in the conclusion, but also in the body paragraphs. Henceforth, it feels to me, as the reader, as if I am reading a reiteration of an introductory and conclusion paragraph, r... (more »)

Burp23 said...
Dec. 15, 2010 at 1:27 pm
I would like to add that capital punishment can and will eliminate some of the failures on the government's part. Did you know that, on average, it costs about $40 a day to feed and house one convict. That works out to about $14,000 that government spends on one convict alone. From my understanding, there are quite a few million convicts in the American prison system at this very moment. So, a problem quickly becomes apparent there alone. Back to the one convict I mentioned earlier - assuming th... (more »)
Sri P. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 6, 2011 at 4:58 am

Its actually the opposite. Look anywhere, and you'll see that the cost for the death penalty are higher. "the death penalty costs an average of $2.3 million per execution, three times more expensive than imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years."

Aspiringauhor replied...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 12:12 pm
Also, prisoners have these things called "prison accounts." They have money in them, that family members can put in. They buy other things with that money. The only things the prison provides them with are the three basic meals.
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