The Death Penalty: Unjust Justice

November 7, 2011
By allison.witte BRONZE, Salt Lake City, Utah
allison.witte BRONZE, Salt Lake City, Utah
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

The death penalty is an unjust and ineffective punishment for criminals. Research has shown the death penalty is not only racially biased, but it doesn’t deter crime, and it’s expensive. In 2011, 15% of death penalty cases were black defendents, 76% white. However, 35% of the defendants executed in 2011 were black, while 56% where white. This statistic shows a greater percentage of black cases ended in execution than white cases. Research also shows states without the death penalty have a lower crime rate than those with it. Usually one death penalty case costs millions more than life in prison. With all the resources used for appeals and trials, it would be less expensive to replace the death penalty with life in prison.

First, and the most concerning aspect of the death penalty is it’s racial discrimination. The statistic above displays a prejudice toward black inmates’ being executed a greater proportion of the time than white inmates’ cases. The judge and jury are only human, and if they have a bias, it’s going to affect the trial’s outcome. Examples of this racial injustice towards blacks are shocking. "One of you two is gonna hang for this. Since you're the n****r, you're elected.” ( These, a Texas police officer’s words directed at Clarence Brandley, who was charged with murder in 1980. Brandley’s story is one example of racism and the death penalty. In the late 1980’s the city of Philadelphia conducted a study to see whether racism factored into the outcome of death penalty trials. “The researchers found that, even after controlling for case differences, blacks in Philadelphia were substantially more likely to get the death penalty than other defendants who committed similar murders.” ( Researchers came up with reasons for this. The racial breakdown of district attorneys in death penalty states is approximately 1,800 to 20, with whites’ numbers trumping the blacks. From the same source I found that those guilty of killing a white person are more likely to be sentenced to death than those who killed blacks. There’s also the natural, innate bias humans have. Either way, someone’s race being a disadvantage in a life or death matter is unfair.

Supporters of the death penalty believe it’s stopping crime in America. The facts show otherwise. A survey given to members of the country’s top criminological societies showed 88% of these experts rejected the notion that the death penalty deters crime. In fact, the murder rates in states without the death penalty are consistently lower than those with it. Reasons for this may be the demographics of the states without the death penalty. These states are typically more developed, educated, and have a higher median household income, which result in lower crime rates. Fifty-percent of non-death penalty states are in the top 20 highest income states in America, with only two of the non-death penalty states in the bottom 20 income states. “For centuries the death penalty. . . has been trying to hold crime in check; yet crime persists.” Albert Camus claims in his work, Resistance, Rebellion and Death. While supporters of the penalty argue it battles crime, the facts disprove this.

The resources used in death penalty cases, appeals, trials and executions are much more expensive than those for life sentences. In a report from Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), the numbers for death row expenses are outrageous. “The additional cost of confining an inmate to death row, as compared to the maximum security prisons where those sentenced to life without possibility of parole ordinarily serve their sentences, is $90,000 per year per inmate.” ( Stated simply, the cost of confining each death row inmate is $90,000 per year, above costs for jail. For a state like California, with a death row count of almost 700 people, the money adds up.

Aside from the inhumanity of the death penalty, there are many things supporting my stance that it should be abolished. Racist and unjust applications of the punishment, the fact that it doesn’t deter crime, and the resource consumption are a few contributing factors to my stance on the topic. Other opposers agree:

Since I was a law student, I have been against the death penalty. It does not deter. It is
severely discriminatory against minorities, especially since
they’re given no competent
legal counsel defense in many cases. It’s a system that has to be perfect. You cannot
execute one innocent person. No system is perfect. And to top it off, for those of you who
are interested in the economics it, it costs more to pursue a capital case toward execution
than it does to have full life imprisonment without parole.

-Ralph Nader Meet the Press interview, June 25, 2000
Though penalty supporters advocate it’s an effective, fair way to punish criminals, I disagree based on my research. The death penalty is not fair, efficient or effective. Steps should be taken by opposers to have it abolished.

The author's comments:
A survey I conducted in my freshman English class showed me that kids my age know very little about the death penalty, so I chose to learn more about it. After my research I took a strong stance against the penalty. I think more attention and awareness needs to be brought to this controversy.

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This article has 1 comment.

joanmarie said...
on Nov. 15 2011 at 6:25 pm
Well organized and very persuasive!

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