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 445 comments. Post your own now!

StarlightStormcloud said...
Aug. 27, 2010 at 11:15 am

This writer is letting his/her emotions and will to be noble take precedence over pragmatism.  

In the cases where the death penalty would be even CONSIDERED, large amounts of incriminating evidence would have to have been produced.  Ambiguity is really less of a problem than this article makes it out to be.  

Rapists and mass murderers are in no way beneficial to society and therefore have no reason to belong in it.  I don't care if the convicted h... (more »)

alanahlovee replied...
Feb. 1, 2011 at 8:04 pm
I agree with the fact that if a person didn't want their family to grieve if they get the death penalty, they wouldn't have committed the crime in the first place.
Kassie#1 said...
Aug. 18, 2010 at 6:18 pm
Then the goverment needs to understand that their are the innocent to protect therfore every means needs to be taken to prove thier innocents and of course thier if they are guilty. if they are guilty then punishment needs to be enforced.
Rimsha said...
Aug. 18, 2010 at 9:46 am
great piece i agree 100% thank u
earlybird_8 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 5, 2010 at 10:47 pm
While I do agree that capital punishment is wrong, and that high security prisons with disgusting food and violent inmates are almost as good at keeping criminals away from the general public, one must admit that severe punishments to crimes can be beneficial to society. If someone is completely terrified of the punishment for a crime, they are less likely to commit the offense, thus protecting numerous people who would have otherwise become victims. If Hammurabi's code were put in place of the ... (more »)
Sonata16 said...
Jul. 16, 2010 at 11:22 pm
Your article was well-written (it needed proof in some areas, though), but I have to disagree: you focussed on murderers; what about rapists? What about those who mess up (on average) 4 kids before they are even caught? Those kids are messed up for life while that guy freeloads in jail?? Na, I don't think so. I think it would be even better if it was broad casted, so that people would know the government was actually serious about this punishment. Also, that number of innocent who die by he... (more »)
AgnotTheOdd replied...
Jul. 23, 2010 at 12:34 pm
Excellent comment.  I completely agree
annalena224 replied...
Aug. 2, 2010 at 2:10 pm
Death is not, nor should it ever be a punishment. Ever. Not to mention the fact that many crimes are committed due to mental illness and uncontrollable emotions caused by mental illness. If you die and believe in Jesus, I believe you go to Heaven. Is that punishment? No. If you die and don't believe in Jesus, I believe you just die. Is that better than being in jail miserable for years and years? Debatable, but I think so.
Kassie#1 replied...
Aug. 18, 2010 at 6:21 pm
SOOOO Right. Thier are woman. children that have those memories FOREVER.
live-love-laugh said...
Jul. 14, 2010 at 9:55 am

this reminds me of a quote about capital punishment, although i don't know if i agree with your view.

"Why do we kill people who kill people to show people that killing people is wrong?"

AgnotTheOdd said...
Jul. 14, 2010 at 12:49 am
I believe in capital punishment because some people are just too much of a risk to handle.  Yeah we could throw them in a maximum security prison or whatever, but why would I want to waste my tax dollars providing food and shelter for murderers?  They are a waste of federal funding.  Right now, given the recession we're in, our country should be worrying about efficiency, ethics come second.  And for the record, firing squad is much cheaper than lethal injectio... (more »)
swimster23 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jul. 14, 2010 at 12:34 pm
I completely agree that Capital Punishment should not be a conclusion automatically jumped to, but in worst-case scenarios it can be the best possible solution.  If cops catch a mass murderer I believe that would be an apt time to use Capital Punishment.
pplofdac replied...
Jul. 21, 2010 at 2:27 pm
Right, lets kill people so that we can lower our taxes...
AgnotTheOdd replied...
Jul. 21, 2010 at 4:52 pm
That's a horribly close-minded way of looking at it.  We pay to provide food and shelter for people who end other peoples' lives.  For some reason, I'm not to keen on doing that.  Despite popular belief, death can be justifiable.
pplofdac replied...
Jul. 22, 2010 at 1:22 pm

To deal with your initial point about taxes, most of the research surrounding the topic has concluded that the death penalty is actually costlier to the state (and thus the taxpayer) than a life sentence. This stems primarily from the various appeals that people on death row attempt. So in that way, your argument falls.

Nevertheless, I opted for a moral (albeit sarcastic) response. If you are so worried about high taxes, there are far better ways to lower them than proposing that inmat... (more »)

AgnotTheOdd replied...
Jul. 22, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Watch yourself.  I said I didn't want to pay for housing them - food, shelter, all that jazz.  I never said anything about being against paying to ensure they are away from others.

And to reiterate, some people are too dangerous to not be killed.  I would rather pay to clean up the streets than to provide basic necessities for murderers.

pplofdac replied...
Jul. 22, 2010 at 3:49 pm
You can "clean up the streets" for cheaper if you just give them a life sentence.
AgnotTheOdd replied...
Jul. 22, 2010 at 4:08 pm

yes, where we provide them with the luxury of food and shelter, pay for it with our own money.  And still streets are filled with vietnam vets living out of cardboard boxes.

I'm not paying for the luxury life of a life-sentenced inmate.

pplofdac replied...
Jul. 22, 2010 at 6:02 pm

You're mixing emotion with reason.

Just to summarize your options:

You can have them live their lives in abject misery and in a cell for a cheaper price (which seems like a punishment they deserve), or you can pay more money to kill them.

Are you, as a future taxpayer, willing to pay extra money? And are you, as a human being, willing to spend this extra money just to derive the satisfaction of killing someone?

Just think about what you are say... (more »)

AgnotTheOdd replied...
Jul. 22, 2010 at 7:46 pm

To get philosophical, emotion and reason can coexist and intermingle.  They can indeed mix and are even reliant on each other.

In addition, I think you are misunderstanding me.  I support the death penalty.  That is I support the act of killing killers.  I do not necessarily agree with the current system in place in the US.  I find it horribly inefficient.  As you stated, a large part of the reason the death penalty is expensive is because of all the appea... (more »)

AgnotTheOdd replied...
Jul. 22, 2010 at 7:46 pm

As a future taxpayer (I can play with italics too, pal) I would like to see my money go to a cause I (see there it is again) believe in.  And as a human being, I am paying money to ensure that no future horrible and brutal offenses are committed by that person.  Killing is never satisfying.  Don't imply it is.  There was a quotation by George R. R. Martin regarding execution that I find true and intriguing, "If you would take a... (more »)

Site Feedback