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!

ally03 said...
Mar. 26, 2010 at 8:29 pm
Personally, I would rather see my murderer having to rot away in a cell, living with this execrable fact.  That, to me, would be more tortuous and effective.
ally03 replied...
Apr. 24, 2010 at 11:45 am
I never said five years.  I think it is incontrovertible that they need to be kept locked up or, you're right, it will happen again.  However, if you are willing to kill someone based on it being too expensive for them to live, I take pity on you and everyone else who favors the death penalty.  I might add that people have been executed and later proven innocent.  This inhumane system does not render justice. 
doxielover15 replied...
May 4, 2010 at 10:12 pm
If you think that it costs a lot to keep someone in prison for life, you don't know how much it costs to give someone the death penalty- about $90,000 more annually than if that same person were to get a life sentence. Thats 63.3 million every year for California, my hometown. If death row were taken away and the maximum sentence changed to life in prison, it could save the state over 120 million annually. So, if you're worried about cost, think again
x3AllieBeth said...
Mar. 26, 2010 at 8:47 am
I agree with this article 100%
kmcemo said...
Mar. 11, 2010 at 11:09 pm
Capital punishment is justified. Ask yourself this: would you rather be killed painlessly and quickly, or rot away in a stinky cell? America wastes too much time and money on these people who have proved themselves inadequate to contribute to society. This isn't about some sort of immature retaliation, this is about making life more efficient and safer for everybody else. The board of education had 7 billions dollars taken out of it two years ago, and this money was poured into prisons. Wha... (more »)
Destinee This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 7:02 pm
I agree with you completely. Quite honestl if I was a murderer, I would much rather die than spend my life rotting in a cell with no chance of getting out or fulfilling my dreams.
x3AllieBeth replied...
Mar. 26, 2010 at 8:46 am
          I disagree with you...I mean, yes it's true way too much money is spent on criminals, but does that mean we should just kill them off? How can preach good morals and push the fact that murder is wrong if we're doing it ourselves? To me it seems our country is very hypocritical on this topic. You can't kill someone for them killing someone does not make sense. I just wrote an article on abortion yesterday, (You should all check... (more »)
browneyedpoet replied...
Apr. 17, 2010 at 3:05 am

I have a few problems with this argument. First of all, it costs more money to give a lethal injection than to keep a person of average life span in jail for life. Second, the money we use on criminal justice is not going to "criminals rather than children" - it's going to keep criminals off the streets to protect everyone, including children. This is not necessarily done at the expense of education - that's simply not the way the federal (or state) budget works.

I agree we need... (more »)

sassafrass said...
Mar. 4, 2010 at 9:25 am
They need the death penalty. If you kill someone, you should be killed.
LoveOfWords replied...
Mar. 4, 2010 at 3:34 pm
Two wrongs don't make a right, but if they are dangeros, they should be stopped. Mostly this is satisfiable by jailing people, but in extreme cases, the death penalty is the only way. I don't like it, especially because it's irreversable, but if it's the only option, it's the only option. I don't think we're stooping to their level; we're protecting others. They kill for no good reason, our government does. It's a hard choice for a hard situation. It&... (more »)
Eccentrikchild said...
Feb. 20, 2010 at 7:03 pm
Agreed. [:
Britty(: said...
Feb. 14, 2010 at 9:48 pm
Its absolutley contradictary. I dont understand how our goverment doesn't see that.
DfinitelyMe said...
Feb. 10, 2010 at 8:18 am
I completely agree. You know the saying 'don't stoop down to their level'? Well that's exactly what we're doing when we give the death penalty! We are killing he ones who kill. And to me, if I had committed a crime like that, being dead would be a much pleasanter punishment than to be stuck in jail for the rest of my life without a chance of parole! I always hear about the people who kill and then kill themselves, but if their state has capital punishment, they don'... (more »)
SamiLee said...
Feb. 10, 2010 at 6:40 am
I totally agree with you. Murder is wrong and inhumane, no matter who it's directed to.
rightbehindyou61 said...
Feb. 9, 2010 at 9:08 pm
The death penalty should be abolished ASAP. I think that there are worst punishments then death. A murderer gets off too easy when they don't have to see the effects of what they did. They should be made to suffer with a life in jail without parole, so that they can see the effect of what they did on the people close to them and the victim's family, and hopefully repent. Also, the chance that the innocent could be killed is just to great to be ignored. Anyway, good writing.
slightlymad said...
Feb. 6, 2010 at 9:49 pm
We don't murder those who murder. We punish them. they dont want to live by norms, well, it's their choice. I think there is nothing wrong with capital punishment
kmcemo replied...
Mar. 11, 2010 at 11:18 pm
Eloquently said, and i couldn't agree more.
Destinee This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 7:04 pm
I agree completely.
~Jillian~ said...
Feb. 3, 2010 at 6:19 pm
I completely agree.
If we muder those who murder, how are we different from the killers themselves?
StevenH1028 replied...
Feb. 16, 2010 at 2:39 pm
We are not murdering them. We are punishing them. If we do not punish crimes, than what exactly is the point of having a government? Capital punishment is simply the form of punishment that some states; including my own, have chosen for the person who murders. Would you disagree that there are some actions, such as infanticide and cop killing, that are deserving of death?
ZombieL replied...
May 16, 2010 at 8:05 pm
As a matter of fact I would disagree. Killing is killing however you look at it, and it is hypocrisy to punish a killer by committing the very same act. Just because the government approves doesn't make it any less wrong. I can understand killing to save a life, but when all is said and done and you're sentencing a convicted criminal to death, what is the point? Just keep him/her in jail for the rest of their life, don't give them the easy way out. Life is about preserving life--not taking it aw... (more »)
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