Abolition Economist states “state-sponsored killing is inhuman, its
Abolition of the death penalty in the United States is a long standing issue that has been debated for decades: is the death penalty a proper and effective means of punishment? Opponents of the death penalty think that it is not an effective method to decrease crime and not an appropriate deterrent. Proponents, on the other hand, argue that it is morally sound, rooted in the teachings of religious texts and traditions and that it brings closure to the victims’ families. The international trend however is away from capital punishment and toward life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Opponents-One of the principal reasons opponents of the death penalty cite for their opposition to capital punishment is that it is cruel and inhuman because of the physical, emotional, and psychological pain and suffering that is inflicted on prisoners awaiting execution over extended periods of time. From the standpoint of international human rights law, “the long and highly stressful period that most individuals endure while waiting on ‘death row’ for years, or even decades, and frequently in isolation, for an uncertain outcome, has also been referenced as constituting torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment…” The death penalty is also state-sponsored murder, and has no moral justification. “Capital punishment is a barbaric remnant of uncivilized society. It is immoral in principle, and unfair and discriminatory in practice. It assures the execution of some innocent people.” Furthermore, it is a form of retribution, an ancient relic: “In civilized society, we reject the principle of literally doing to criminals what they do to their victims: The penalty for rape cannot be rape, or for arson, the burning down of the arsonist’s house. We should not, therefore, punish the murderer with death…” Moreover, the death penalty is an irreversible punishment for which there is no remedy in case of a mistake. “Death is not only an unusually severe punishment, unusual in its pain, in its finality, and in its enormity, but it serves no penal purpose more effectively than a less severe punishment; therefore the principle … that prohibits pointless infliction of excessive punishment when less severe punishment can adequately achieve the same purposes invalidates the punishment.” Therefore, the irreversible nature of the death penalty, combined with the inherent possibility of error in any punishment, irreversible error in this particular case, makes the death penalty the most cruel and inhuman of all punishments. Opponents also base their position on data showing that the death penalty is not a deterrent. “The death penalty has no deterrent effect. Claims that each execution deters a certain number of murders have been thoroughly discredited by social science research…”. Rather than killing a murderer, opponents state that putting him/her in jail for life is more likely to deter potential murderers. The Economist states “state-sponsored killing is inhuman, its effectiveness as a deterrent is at best unproven and it is no less prone to miscarriages of justice than more easily reversible sentences”. Not only is the death penalty not a deterrent, but opponents also say that it is overly expensive and that the government could be using the money towards a better and more worthwhile cause, such as for actual crime control and prevention. Recent studies show that in Maryland, every death penalty case costs around three million dollars, or, three times as much money as a non death penalty case. Furthermore, Ron Briggs, former District IV Supervisor of El Dorado County in California, stated “California taxpayers have unknowingly spent more than $5 billion to maintain a death row that now houses 747 convicted criminals. During this time, only 13 people have been put to death, at an eye-popping price tag of $384 million per execution”. While the U.S. is spending millions of dollars toward death penalty cases, more than 140 countries have entirely abolished the death penalty. In fact, in 2010, “the overwhelming majority of all known executions took place in five countries: China, Iran, North Korea, Yemen, and the United States”. Unfortunately, the United States is neither suspending nor abolishing the death penalty, and that is only giving the country a bad reputation. “Capital punishment is not only an atrocity, but also a stain on the record of the world’s most powerful democracy.” The sooner we definitively abolish the death penalty, the sooner the country will be on track with the world trend toward adopting more effective methods of punishment. Studies conducted regarding the issue of race in capital punishment cases indicate that the race of the victim is a major factor for sentencing someone to death, all other things being equal. “A North Carolina study found that the odds of receiving a death sentence were 3.5 times higher if the victim was white than if the victim was another race… Over 75% of capital cases resulting in executions involved white victims even though nationally only about 50% of murder victims are white.” Furthermore, the race of the defendant is a major factor in giving a death sentence, as indicated by statistics. “Since 1976, there have been 293 black defendants executed for killing a white victim, while 31 white defendants have been executed for killing a black victim.” This is true, in spite of the fact that the racial group is a minority. “African-Americans make up 42% of death row inmates, but represent only 13% of the general population.” There are also a number of different factors that contribute to the arbitrariness of the issuance of death sentences, such as lack of effective and competent legal representation, district attorneys more frequently seeking the death penalty when the victim is white rather than African American, prosecutors being the sole individuals in charge of determining whether to seek the death penalty or not, and local politics, among others. “Local politics, the location of the crime, plea bargaining, and pure chance affect the process and make it a lottery of who lives and who dies.” It is clear that the judicial system lacks the requisite impartiality; racial disparities play a significant role in dispensing death sentences thereby rendering the punishment entirely unjustifiable.