Assessing the Death Penalty

The death penalty is one of the most polarizing debates in our society. Some people believe that it is an absolutely necessary punishment (mainly because they believe it is effective as a deterrent and as revenge), while people on the other side of the ledger see it as being cruel and unusual. No matter which side you stand on, chances are it’s an issue you feel strongly about.

For many reasons, I do not believe the Death Penalty should be legal. Aside from seeing it as inhumane and a bit hypocritical (though I understand these are more personal issues), some of the more practical and objective reasons are:

1) It is inefficient – due to appeals(among other things), it actually costs a lot more money to put someone to death than to keep them in prison for the rest of their life. For example, the trial of Timothy McVeigh cost the state of Oklahoma over $15 million, which is obviously much more than it would have cost to put him in prison for the rest of his life. The death penalty is a waste of the taxpayer’s money.

2) It is ineffective as a deterrent to future crime – Studies show that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent to future crime. The 2 main arguments in favor of the death penalty are retribution and deferrence… the only problem is that it does not act a deterrent. With a few exceptions, if people are crazy enough to commit murder, they probably aren’t thinking that clearly about the consequences of it.

3) It is arbitrarily enforced – In a perfect system the worst of the worst criminals would get the death penalty, others would simply get life imprisonment. This is far from the case. Serial killers like Gary Ridgeway often do not get the death penalty in favor of making a deal. Meanwhile, the ones that are getting sentenced to death are those criminals that are poor and have poor representation. Minorities are inproportionately represented among those on Death Row. It’s a sad fact in our country that those who cannot afford adequate representation are unlikely to receive an adequate defense.

There are many other reasons, such as the morality of the death penalty, but I won’t get into that now. But I do believe that capital punishment is an unjust crime that should not be legal, because it is inefficient, ineffective, and arbitrarily enforced.