The Death Penalty

January 8, 2018

To discuss whether or not the death penalty should be abolished I think we should first recognize the two main issues, or debates commonly seen with the death penalty. Although the main goal is to decide on its constitutionality I feel like deeper analysis of motives would be more useful. The first is morality, and the second is practicality. If you noticed a third missing issue, you are exceptionally keen. And I purposely left this absent of my analysis, (this being monetary motives). The reason for this is a self bias, placing monetary value on human life is something I think we should avoid, as to what extent that we do that is a such a gray area that it borders philosophical debate which often consists of unanswerable questions often coupled with undefinable limits.


Morality, the first discussion is whether execution by lethal injection is a cruel and unusual form of punishment, and by extent, whether or not execution is. The reason why morals enter the debate of the death penalty is because it connects to the forbiddance of cruel and unusual punishment as listed in the constitution. Now examining the reason why those who cry immorality do so, stems from two sources. The perceived pain of lethal injection, and the act of death itself. First, lethal injection is painless. The formula they use has the substance sodium thiopental which renders the body into a deeply unconscious state. The problem arises, when there is not enough of sodium thiopental in the serum. Which is where most of the protestors to lethal injection find their footing. Many have described lethal injection akin to the gas chamber, or electrocution. In this regard, because of the severe lack of studies surrounding the formula used for lethal injection. The death penalty should be deemed inhumane.


But what of death itself? Many who argue this point are in favor of the death penalty. I have noticed, through my readings and research that they come with an air vengeance and spite. The problem here is not whether killing someone is moral, but whether people can remove themselves from the vindictiveness of human nature and become objective in their decisions. When thinking of the people on death row, most are inclined to think of the worst of the worst, which may be true. However, if you were to look at those people you would not find horns on their heads, red tails, and flames atop their heads. You would see a person, and while I am not sympathizing with those on death row, I am merely attempting to remind you that every person on death row is not the embodiment of pure evil.


Practicality, I’m going to have to break my previous rule a bit here, as among the two main points of debate is monetary burden. The other one is punishment.  Luckily, monetary burden  is relatively easy to cover, please don’t mistake it’s simplicity for lack of thoroughness. It’s more expensive to keep someone on death row, than it is to hold them for life, assuming that they are on death row long enough. Since most states provide monetary compensation for the falsely accused on death row, it becomes even more expensive with each wrongful conviction.


Death row breaks one of the four justifications of punishment as used in criminology, and is inefficient in others. These four justifications are retribution, deterrence, rehabilitation, and incapacitation. The one being broken, is rehabilitation, the death penalty completely removes any chance of rehabilitation.  “...death is not a corrective measure. When a person is killed, it in no way changes the act of the violent criminal nor makes the people anymore safe than merely segregating the violent criminal. Therefore, the death penalty is merely a political act.” (Scott of the Insurgency Culture Collective)


Inefficiencies, the death penalty has been statistically shown to do little to none on the crime rates of the states which support it. In addition to that, criminologists believe that it is an ineffective alternative to life in prison without parole. Yes, death row is just as effective in incapacitation as life without parole is, but at the cost of a much higher economic burden. The final justification of punishment is retribution, which is frankly a very primitive reason for a punishment. As it is synonymous with vengeance, which is simply not a sign of a virtuous modern society.
From all of this I can conclude that the death penalty is simply not an ethical nor effective form of punishment. The impractical and vengeful nature of death row should lead you to believe that it is an unjust and imperfect solution when looked at objectively. And unfortunately which has had a much better alternative present the entire time.






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