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 461 comments. Post your own now!

jpweber said...
Jan. 13, 2013 at 9:23 pm
Frankly, you're precisely correct, Olivia.  Judicial malfeasance and corruption is inundated through the system, and many prosecutors will lie, cheat, and steal (metaphore) to get a conviction to hoist on their political resume. I know this is off-topic, but I also feel our prisons are overcrowded.  I am among the 53% (Romney figure) who pays federal income taxes, and why am I paying to lock up some dude who smoked a joint, or was 4 days late on a child support payment? For fut... (more »)
YoungLibertarian said...
Jan. 12, 2013 at 3:48 pm
I don't think anyone would have a problem sentencing James Holmes (Aurora shooter) to death.   The death penalty needs to be selectively applied. I don't think it should be used in a case in which guilt is not certain (even though that should yield no punishment). However, in mass shooting cases where the perpetrator is obvious, we might as well just get rid of the individual, saving money and emotional pain.
CynthiaNieves replied...
Aug. 30, 2013 at 6:22 am
I agree with you, and i would think it is the best thing to get rid of them right then and there, but it doesnt save money. It actually costs more money to kill them than to have them in jail for their lifetime. It's stupid, but sadly thats how it is.
BryceE replied...
Nov. 17, 2014 at 7:43 pm
How it is possible to cost more to kill them than to keep them alive? Food, Wages, utility, and maintnace of cells over 60 years nears in the millions. 
Dominik-the-donkey said...
Jan. 3, 2013 at 2:28 pm
I agree 100%, the death penalty is very wrong.  I especially liked the part about how we kill people who kill other people as a punishment.  I have never thought about it that way but it is very true, you can't commit the same crime as a punishment to those who cmmited it.  I also remember a story I heard about a man who was proven innocent after the day of his execution.  There was no bringing him back.  Great post.
SuporGoudSkilllz said...
Jan. 3, 2013 at 2:27 pm
Your only two points were that it's barbaric and you may kill an innocent man, which are weak arguments. When given the death penalty, the person is dead within seconds, compared to rotting in a cell, unhappy, and weak, tired of life. I'd rather die than live in a cell for my life. lso, it's expensive to run prisons. If we were to cut prison funding, and use capitol punishment, we would have more money to fix things like the fiscal cliff.
smarrie95 replied...
Mar. 27, 2013 at 10:51 am
You do realize that prison is PUNISHMENT, right? It does not matter what the inmate wants. Giving them death over rotting their life away is what they want. You're a little hypocritical aren't you? Not to mention, captial punishment costs MILLIONS of dollars a year just to leave the inamates awaiting their death for up to 20 years. How is that more cost effective? Do some research.
SFeathery This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Aug. 12, 2013 at 9:38 pm
So which is more barbaric? which is right, which is wrong?
CynthiaNieves replied...
Aug. 30, 2013 at 6:25 am
Well I would rather want them to kill them depending on their crime, but sadly it costs way more to kill them than to keep them in jail their whole lifetime.
MaxineA replied...
Oct. 16, 2013 at 10:17 pm
You people talk as if they were animals in a slaughter house. They are worth just as much as you and if money is your only reason not to support the death penalty, you're less human than those criminals themselves. Just because you WANT to kill them doesn't mean we have the RIGHT to kill them.  
Rosstipher said...
Jan. 3, 2013 at 2:27 pm
I totally agree. Death penalty is not necessary. The states that have the death penalty are saying it is ok to murder to get revenge. Jail for life is wa Paste   y better than death penalty.  
Goalychik said...
Jan. 3, 2013 at 2:27 pm
This is such a hard topic. There are sooooooo many different ways to look at this. We could kill someone, to later find out that they were innocent. Or we could give someone a 5-year sentence, let them go when the 5 years are over, and let them kill or wound many others. In my opinion it all depends on the situation.
Smithy1830 said...
Jan. 3, 2013 at 2:26 pm
i agree with what you are saying.  Death as a punishment is a bad idea. There are many other ways to deal with crimes.
17Palermo said...
Jan. 3, 2013 at 2:21 pm
I personally feel that the death penalty is a needed punishment, take the current situation in India to mind.  There was a women who was raped by a gang of men, which leaded to beatings, and eventually her death due to internal injuries.  Would you rather us pay for those men to be cared for in prison, or for them to face a death penalty?  I, for one, believe they should be punished for their crime in the harshest matter.
Delilah C. said...
Jan. 3, 2013 at 2:21 pm
I agree with your opinions; death is an unethical method of punishment-- and in the case of a dead loved one, the death of their murderer will not bring any ease to the family.
Abhishek S. said...
Jan. 3, 2013 at 2:20 pm
Where do we draw the line? If  a guy kills 20 million people, then do we throw him into jail and give him free food for the rest of his life? If we had captured Hitler alive, should he have been killed for his crimes, or given a nice bed to sleep on, clean clothes, and more food than many homeless people eat? No. We should have killed him, and maybe even have made it public. After all, capital punishment isn't brutal and cruel anymore. We give lethal injections that kill within a minute... (more »)
Rosstipher said...
Jan. 3, 2013 at 2:17 pm
I totatlly agree. Death pentally is not necessary. The states that have the death pentally are saying is is ok to murder to get revenge. Jail for life is way better than death pentally.
. said...
Jan. 1, 2013 at 12:28 pm
I don't know about this- if someone killed my sister, I'd want to see that person dead. Call me barbaric and uncivilized, but that is me.
MaxineA replied...
Oct. 16, 2013 at 10:23 pm
Someone killed my aunt and all of my family believes in the death penalty maybe for that reason. I don't. Just because you WANT someone to die doesn't mean you have the RIGHT to kill them. A person's rights are unalienable, that means unbendable, unbreakable. So let's decide; is life an unalienable right, or only a right given to those we deem worthy and deserving?   
1234567890 said...
Dec. 4, 2012 at 10:21 pm
  I really hope you don't believe everything you stated in this article, because a majority of it is either contradictory, or simply lack of understanding.  To begin with, you stated that "In its simplest form, capital punishment is defined as one person taking the life of another", which is an extremely obvious statement that anyone in the right mind pre-determinately comprehends.  You also falsely inquired that the previous statement was “coincidently the... (more »)
Site Feedback