An Argument against Capital Punishment
After a fair trial and conviction for a particular crime, someone is put to death as a kind of punishment known as capital punishment. If a non-state entity claims to have “executed” a person, they are guilty of murdering that individual. Capital punishment is often justified with the phrase, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” People who agree with this concept rationalize that if someone takes the life of another human being, their life should also be taken. However, according to Amnesty International and the United Nations, many countries still use capital punishment as a way to prevent crime (Ramos, 2016). In the United States, capital punishment is a hot-button issue. Misunderstandings about this topic are also common. Most other countries have abolished the death penalty. Most Americans favor capital punishment, but only if it is done fairly and justly. Most people do not want to see an innocent person become the victim of capital punishment. While this may be the case, they also understand that. I am opposed to the death penalty because, while those who commit heinous acts deserve their punishment, the act is inhuman, disregards human life as a gift of God, innocent people may be executed, and do not entirely prevent crime.
The argument against capital punishment is based on three premises. The first premise is that it is a fallacy to argue that we should do it just because something might be helpful. The second premise is that it is wrong to kill an innocent person deliberately. The third premise is that even if someone has committed a murder, society does not have the right to kill them deliberately. Capital punishment helps deter people from committing the crime of murder. However, just because something might be helpful does not mean it should be done. We must also consider other factors, such as fairness and justice. It is also wrong to deliberately kill an innocent person. This brings up whether or not we are 100% certain that all those convicted of murder are guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. No matter how hard we try to make sure such mistakes do not happen, there will always be some human error in any system run by imperfect human beings. Lastly, even if someone has committed a murder, does society have the right to kill them deliberately? I would argue that this is morally wrong. Two wrongs do not make a right, and two murders do not equal justice.
Capital punishment has been the most controversial penal measure in the United States. Although thirty-one states have now adopted lethal injection as their primary execution method, three states have abolished the practice, and several others have imposed moratoria on executions (Hulme, 2020). If there were a strong argument in favor of capital punishment, one could not object to it simply because it was cruel. All punishment is cruel; imprisonment, the least brutal form of punishment, is still a severe penalty. What gives the issue its peculiar urgency is that capital punishment is supposed to be more than merely a severe punishment: it is intended to have a unique moral status. Many individuals believe that the death sentence is an unjust punishment. They argue that it is not fair to kill someone for killing someone else. However, I think that is a very simplistic argument. The human body is just a machine, like a car. If you wreck your car, you do not blame the car. You get a new car. If your body gets sick, you take medicine or go to the hospital. If your body is defective, such as with Down syndrome or mental retardation, we euthanize it. It is the same thing with criminals. We cannot leave someone alive who killed another person because it sets a bad example for others who might be tempted to kill. The only way to stop people from killing each other is to kill them first.
Capital punishment is a difficult decision and should be abolished. It is an unnecessary procedure that violates human rights, costs a lot of money, takes the focus off of fundamental issues like education and jobs, wastes tax payers’ money, and can never actually be reversed if it turns out that the condemned is innocent. More than two-thirds of the world’s countries have abolished the death penalty (Dieter, 2019). I think that the United States should follow this example. Statistics also show that capital punishment does not deter crime more than life imprisonment (Pieton, 2017). Trying to correct one wrong thing by conducting a similar mistake is wrong. Let us try to rehabilitate criminals instead of killing them. It costs much less to keep a person behind bars for life than to punish them with death. The money used by the government on these useless procedures could be used in many other areas, such as improving our school systems, helping poor people, and providing better health care for all citizens. If people are terrified of dying, they will think twice before committing a crime. However, it is not necessary to kill them. We can always keep them in jail without parole to at least live their lives in peace while thinking about what they have done.
In times of great crisis, we seek the comfort of tradition. However, in times of crisis, tradition is a fool’s gold that will lead us to ruin. The death penalty is such a regressive, ineffective, and immoral institution that it should be abolished forthwith (Desai & Garrett, 2018). There is no question that some crimes deserve the ultimate sanction. And though I have often said that he would be better off in prison for life than dead, I reserve the right to change my mind when I look into his eyes and see only darkness there. Still, capital punishment is so arbitrary and capricious in its administration that it can never be anything but society’s sanctioned murder, a chance for people to vent their rage and prejudice against those who frighten or offend them.
The most popular rationale for death punishment is that society has a moral duty to protect its people from violent offenders (Roberts, 2016). Contrary to popular belief, more than half of all murderers are never arrested or charged with the crime; many more are acquitted at trial; and of those convicted, only a small percentage are given death sentences. In practice, capital punishment is reserved for a random handful of murderers. In addition, the impact of capital punishment on murder rates is unclear. There is evidence that it may be a deterrent, but it is unclear how much and to whom. Thus, even though it deters some, as in any other branch of crime prevention, a certain percentage is undeterred by the threat of punishment. Another case against capital punishment relies only on the Bible as its primary source of evidence. The scriptures say that “thou shalt not kill” and that we should forgive those who do us wrong (that is, turn the other cheek), so why would we turn around and kill someone?
Since its inception, capital punishment has been and continues to be a very divisive topic. We have made progress in eliminating a practice many consider unjust and ungodly. Still, many claim that death punishment is essential to discourage crime and ensure the safety of our communities. There are several reasons why the death penalty should be abolished. One of the most serious issues is the near-certainty that innocent individuals would be executed. When it comes to death punishment, no matter how many reasons are made in favor of or against it, the reality remains that it can be supported when the circumstances warrant it. As a principle, I believe the death penalty is wrong. I believe in the sanctity of life, even for those who commit the most horrible crimes. We do not honor life by taking it. Still, there are monsters among us, monsters who are so damaged, so deranged, so filled with hatred, so beyond redemption that there is no other way to protect society from them short of execution. This act should be abolished because it does not deter crime, costs too much money, and violates the U.S. Constitution.
Desai, A., & Garrett, B. L. (2018). The state of the death penalty. Notre Dame L. Rev., 94, 1255.
Dieter, R. C. (2019). Introduction: international perspectives on the death penalty. In Comparative Capital Punishment. Edward Elgar Publishing.
Hulme, A. (2020). How the Death Penalty Lives: An Empirical Analysis of Discrimination in Capital Punishment in Texas from 2012 to 2018.
Pieton, M. (2017). The effectiveness of capital punishment in reducing the violent crime rate (Doctoral dissertation).
Roberts, D. E. (2016). Democratizing Criminal Law as an Abolitionist Project. Nw. UL Rev., 111, 1597.
Ramos, T. C. B. (2016). Capital punishment: a theoretical and cooperative analysis. Przegl?d Prawniczy Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicza, (6), 145-156.