In the USA, a debate continues to rage on about the merits of retaining or repealing the death penalty. This can be seen on a federal level, with 31 states that continue to have one, and 19 which do not. In the past 8 years, 7 states have stopped using the death penalty, highlighting the growing trend of people in favour of abolition. In this piece I will try to dissect three arguments commonly stated by those who assert that the Death Penalty is just.
It’s a great deterrent! Without the death penalty, crime rates would spike.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. States which continue to use the death penalty routinely experience higher rates of crime. So there goes the ‘deterrence’ argument. 88% of criminologists will back me up on this, and that percentage continues to rise, with that figure having been 84% twelve years earlier. In recent years this gulf has been even more pronounced, as illustrated by the graph below.
It’s cheaper than life without parole! Why do we waste our precious tax dollars keeping murderers alive?
This is also simply not true. Extensive studies have made vivid the sheer money spent sentencing people to death. Having read through various studies on the cost efficiency of the death penalty, one really stood out. California taxpayers pay $90,000 more per death row prisoner each year than on prisoners in regular confinement. This isn’t just inhumane in my eyes, it’s simply not economical too.
These people should not be allowed to live. Denying someone of their life means you should relinquish your own.
Aside from the long moral debate you can have about whether an eye for an eye is righteous, it should be noted that around 4% of those executed through the death penalty are innocent, and that this in itself is a conservative estimate. By enforcing the death penalty, 1 in 25 innocent people are being condemned to what is effectively state sanctioned murder. I think that the mere idea that this could happen is reason enough to start questioning how humane keeping the death penalty is. Life is precious. Giving a state the power to end a life is not only dangerous but careless. And innocent people will bear the brunt of this carelessness.
While I get the impression more and more people are rallying to stop the death penalty, that doesn’t seem to be the case everywhere. In fact gas chambers, an almost universally reviled form of capital punishment, are set to be re-introduced in Oklahoma as a second choice if lethal injection fails. Interestingly (and worryingly in my view), this piece of legislation was passed with an overwhelming majority.
Think that there’s still a place for the death penalty? Or is it just a primitive feeling of revenge? Drop a comment below and let me know!