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.

Join the Discussion

This article has 472 comments. Post your own now!

~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?
monicarane replied...
Jun. 16, 2010 at 5:37 pm
What is the point of punishing them if they wouldn't be alive to be corrected? The whole point of punishment is to correct the behavior, if you just kill them, it is a waste of time. Calling it punishment is dumb. But you have to punsih people, so if it isn't punishment, what is it?There is better ways to "punish" people, which actually leaves a person behind to correct the behavior.
Emmalee This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 27, 2010 at 8:01 am
Eye for an eye. If one steals, they should have everything taken. If one molests, they should be molested. Most importantly, if one kills, they should be killed. It's simple knowledge.
BeatlesFreak replied...
Mar. 4, 2010 at 9:02 am
An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind- Ghandi
Destinee This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 7:05 pm
Actually, an eye for an eye will prevent future eye-pokers from poking eyes for fear of their own eyes being poked out.
...Sorry, I just dislike Ghandi a lot. And that saying.
browneyedpoet replied...
Apr. 17, 2010 at 2:49 am
Sorry for replying to this after it's been a few months...but, really? One who molests should be molested? What kind of philosophy is that? I think Destinee brings up a key point which is: fear. If people fear punishment, but do not respect human life or society, it's not achieving much. All this means is that it teaches people the only reason not to commit a crime is you'll get caught. So if someone knows (or believes) they won't get caught, they'll commit the crime anyway. This i... (more »)
Destinee This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Apr. 21, 2010 at 10:53 pm
I see what you're saying, but you're also being idealistic. Until or unless the USA/other-countries includes something like "ethics" in the school curriculum, they can't really control people's thoughts of respect. Not everyone respects people; not everyone has been raised like that. If the government tries to control people's views on respect, it's called 'brainwashing'. They're sort of stuck between two hard places.
browneyedpoet replied...
Apr. 21, 2010 at 11:03 pm
I agree that it's a pretty idealized view of things.... I'm not saying this (everyone respecting everyone else) could actually happen, just that I think we should aim to be closer to that. Our government shouldn't reinforce the mentality that we need to get revenge on criminals. It may not stop people from thinking that way, but it will help keep people involved in law from acting that way.
Destinee This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Apr. 22, 2010 at 2:07 am

It's not revenge; it's justice. 

Look at it this way: for every person who is murdered, it affects their friends, their family, their parents, their co-workers. It's a ripple effect. It's not just between the murderer and the victim. You want to prevent people from murdering. You can't do that by giving them a couple of years in a jail. If they were passionate enough to go through with taking someone's life, they're not going to be stopped by jail. 

And if they are, th... (more »)

browneyedpoet replied...
May 7, 2010 at 1:30 am

We're not talking about "a couple years in jail," we're talking about life without parole, which people (even minors) can get for less than murder. I'm not saying bad people don't exist. What I'm saying is that the purpose of punishment is twofold - to punish and deter criminals, and to protect society - not just to punish convicts and scare would-be-criminals.

Think of this way. If we had the death penalty just to make a point to other criminals, that'd be pretty horrible. T... (more »)

Destinee This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
May 19, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Sorry about replying so late; I've been pretty busy over the past couple of days.

First of all, the death penalty is cheaper than keeping people in prison for their lifetime.

Secondly, you said: "The purpose of a punishment is two-fold - to punish and deter criminals, and to protect society".

The death penalty does both. A lifetime in jail could possibly do both in most cases. However, the fact we don't live in an ideal world where everybody can be deterred by a li... (more »)

browneyedpoet replied...
May 20, 2010 at 1:19 am

The death penalty is actually not cheaper than keeping a criminal in jail their entire life. (I think this is mostly due to the complex legal processes leading to a death sentence.) But I don't think that's really a valid argument against the death penalty, I was just throwing it out there. I still wouldn't support the death penalty even if it were less expensive than a life sentence.

I agree that the threat of death probably deters some people more than life in jail. However, this is ... (more »)

monicarane replied...
Jun. 16, 2010 at 5:38 pm

I agree with BeatlesFreak. (well, Ghandi I guess LOL)

No that is stupid, it would just keep going around and the whole world would be chaos

Jack_Walton said...
Jan. 19, 2010 at 8:54 pm
"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."
Pardon me, but it sounds like you are saying that if the death penalty rises, that means crime rises. Actually, it's the other way around. If the MURDER RATE rises, then of course... (more »)
Olivia replied...
Jan. 20, 2010 at 7:48 pm
im not saying that if the death penalty rises murder rates rise, im saying that the death penalty does not prevent crime, as the states that have it still continue to have high murder rates, even though the death penalty should make the murder rate less, because people are afraid of the more drastic consequence, my point being that the death penalty doesn't serve it's purpose to deter crime
crawfordkid This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Apr. 13, 2010 at 7:28 pm
I think what a lot of people don't realise is that capital punishment can only serve its purpose as a crime deterrent if it is a concrete and definite penalty for murder.  Currently, that is not neccessarily the case, as the penalty for murder fluctuates depending on a variety of factors - location, victim, jury, ect.  To fully operate as a successful deterrent, capital punishment would need to be enacted more consistently, otherwise it won't have nearly as effective an impact.
Chrissy_L said...
Jan. 19, 2010 at 4:45 pm
I entirely agree. The very notion of an innocent man or woman rotting away in jail sickens me; I can't bare to consider those innocent people whom we have killed. Innocent people can be freed from jail, but what of those for whom we were too late? Should we dig up the bones and present them with a whole-hearted apology?
In this case, the judge has now murdered an innocent man. Should we go after him, too, and make him pay? No! We're punishing violence with further violence...
karishna418 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 19, 2010 at 3:55 pm
so happy this finally got published in the mag! Congrats!
Edward cullen is sxy said...
Jan. 19, 2010 at 4:43 am
i dont entirely agree with u. i mean yea when innocent people die it suxs but if they didnt have the death penalty then wat will happen i a 18 year old kills someone and instead of being killed gets wat 30 years that would make him/her 48 and then they could get out of prison and kill more INNOCENT people. People in the streets today kill more INNOCENT people then the death penalty does. so just keep that in mind
ryanisfluffy said...
Jan. 7, 2010 at 9:42 pm
I suppose you have a decent argument... rather textbook though, if I might say so, it sound's like you just saw a seminar about capital punishment. :)
some things don't really work though. I mean, just because states that have the death penalty don't lower the numbers, who's to say that that directly correlates or doesn't correlate to the fact that there is a death penalty?
And what say you about those who would prefer the death penalty to life in prison? isn... (more »)
roxy replied...
Jan. 20, 2010 at 8:02 pm
no the murderer didnt think about that, which is exactly why we should! youre saying that because the murderer got to kill someone we get to too? a little immature and vengeful sentiment for a government...
Site Feedback