Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

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

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.

Join the Discussion

This article has 459 comments. Post your own now!

ThatGuy said...
May 31, 2010 at 11:14 am
One thing that I noticed is that nearly all of the people against the death penalty have never been remotely involved in it. Imagine if your brother, sister, mother, father, boyfriend, girlfriend, or any other being close to you was murdered. If anything, you would feel that it's a necessity that the murderer was put to death. There are a million different factors going into how and why that person murdered someone saying it's not their fault, but the fact still remains that they are a murderer ... (more »)
Aelita replied...
Jun. 22, 2010 at 12:52 pm
If you let them continue to live in jail, they can come back to hurt you or your loved ones.
VanishingEntity replied...
Jun. 22, 2010 at 5:49 pm
Not if they have a life sentence.
Aelita replied...
Jun. 22, 2010 at 7:22 pm
Unfortunately, that's wishful thinking.  I meant if they escaped- and yes that really does happen.
AgnotTheOdd replied...
Jul. 22, 2010 at 8:06 pm
Not to mention the whole thing about killing other folks in jail.  People will always find a way to kill others.  I am in accordance with Aelita: wishful thinking
Kassie#1 replied...
Aug. 18, 2010 at 6:27 pm
some people get out of jail( therefore a life sentance for example) for good behavior.
aaa-mister said...
May 19, 2010 at 7:42 pm
your opinion was good, but you really could use more stats to back up your points. you say things then just BAM next should have proof for everything you say. this is a serious topic and all opinions are welcome obviously but you really should think about the other sides of the story, like if someone gets hanged because they are a murderer to me, that makes perfect sense. but personally i am all for death penalty in CERTAIN situations. well done though.
suckerlove said...
May 13, 2010 at 1:41 pm

just watch it. i agree that capital punishment is wrong, but this makes sense. (:

The_End said...
May 12, 2010 at 11:15 pm
Actually, if you want to get philosophical about it, there are those that argue that a life sentence in prison is worse than capital punishment. You are going to sit a cell for the rest of your existence. (Notice I did not say "rest of your life"). Some people say this is THE punishment to use. Honestly, I'm not sure where I stand on this.
VanishingEntity replied...
Jun. 22, 2010 at 11:42 am
That's a matter of opinion about the afterlife. If anything, the prisoner should be made to choose between the two.
patrickj96 said...
May 9, 2010 at 6:49 am
Well, you could say that capital punishment is murder. However, it is justified because of what they did to us. Take Saddam Hussein for example: the murder of 148 innocent people, the torture of helpless and innocent women and children, and the illegal arrests of 399 people? And in his last letter back to Iraq, he wasn't even sorry about what he did. He said that he was kind and just! He wasn't sorry in the least. We absoultely did know that he did these things, and you are telling me that we do... (more »)
J. Rae replied...
May 9, 2010 at 3:16 pm
Hussein did many awful things, but sadly he was raised learning it was okay. No matter how bad someone's crimes are, do we really have the right to kill them?
patrickj96 replied...
May 9, 2010 at 3:34 pm
Oh, c'mon man. He was raised thinking that was okay? Everyone knows deep down inside that killing and murdering is WRONG. And yes, we do indeed have the justified right to execute him, because he would probably find another way to have the next 9/11!
J. Rae replied...
May 9, 2010 at 5:16 pm
Seriously! He was raised to think bad of us, and that it was a good thing to kill us. Like those people who jump out of airplanes with bombs on their backs. They do not value life, no even their own. What he did was tiwsted and wrong, but if we wanted to give him a real punishment, jail for life would be it. Capitol punishment just stopped his life. Being in a cold jail cell with no windows, not those cooshy jails with yoga classes,  would have been the ultimate punishment.
patrickj96 replied...
May 9, 2010 at 6:47 pm
No, the ultimate punishment is death. I mean, you cannot honestly sit there and not tell me that he deserves to die and burn in hell for what he did!
Hollywog. replied...
May 9, 2010 at 11:03 pm

patrickj96, I guess using Saddam Hussein is a legitimate example, and there is absolutely no way that I am saying that what he did was okay, but killing him is still not right! What harm would it have done to have kept him locked up for the rest of his life instead of killing him? None. It's like we're saying "You killed people - that's wrong. Killing is shoccking and awful and unjust. So we're going to kill you." It's completely hypocritical.

But Hussein was a VERY extreme case. ... (more »)

patrickj96 replied...
May 10, 2010 at 7:49 am

Why does everyone think that it is the same as killing someone, like what he did? IT IS NOT THE SAME! We were absolutely justified in giving him the death penalty! He absoultely freaking deserved the death penalty and that is what he got.


VanishingEntity replied...
Jun. 22, 2010 at 11:46 am
Hussein was mentally ill. Earlier, Patrick, you said that deep down inside of everyone, they know that murdering is wrong, but perhaps Hussein was missing that part of him. He was a sociopath. He didn't UNDERSTAND the meaning of guilt. Are you saying we should put all potentially dangerous mentally ill people to death?
patrickj96 replied...
Jun. 22, 2010 at 12:09 pm
Hussein was not mentally ill. Yes, he was a total freak physchopath, but, no, he wasn't ill.
VanishingEntity replied...
Jun. 22, 2010 at 5:45 pm
Oh, you knew him personally and gave him a psychoanalysis? How did you come to that conclusion?
Aelita replied...
Jun. 22, 2010 at 7:35 pm
Especially when you are talking about a terrorist, by then they are unchangable.  It's not as though they will just wake up one day, and volunteer at a homeless shelter on parole.  These are horrible people.  THey aren't even people anymore.  If they killed one person, then they can MAYBE come back from it, but probably not.  People don't change suually, and they aren't going to have any great epiphanies in a jail cell.  So there is really no point.  Als... (more »)
Site Feedback