The death penalty is a capital punishment that is put into effect for major crimes. The death penalty is a very controversial topic in the United States and throughout the world. There was a time period were the death penalty was banned for about four years in 1972-1976. Many feel that the death penalty is justice because it is retribution toward criminals who have committed heinous crimes. However the death penalty is inhumane and should be abolished in the United States.
The death penalty has been around since the beginning of civilization. “Capital Punishment has been practiced in most known societies over the course of humans history” (Garland 30). The website Introduction to the Death Penalty states that the death was first established for 25 different crimes, however, over the years the laws have changed. Fortunately, only one-third of the world still uses this type of punishment. There are only a few developed countries that have the death penalty, such as Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.
The most recent countries that have abolished the death penalty because they deamed it inhumane are Burundi, and Togo in 2009, and Gabon in 2010. Unfortunately the U. S. is one of the few developed countries that still have the death penalty. Writer Scott Christianson says, “In the United States, however, serious consideration of abolition was slower in the coming, for political reasons.
On the one hand, capital punishment had been used since the earliest days of exploration and Colonization; it was still legal in all but a few states” (176). In the U. S. nly fourteen states have abolished the death penalty, the most recent states to abolish the death penalty are New York in 2007, New Mexico in 2009, and Illinois in 2011. Writer Michael Meranze says, “Europe redefined itself as a death penalty- free zone and seventy countries around the globe abolished the death since 1976, where us the United States not only reinstated capital punishment but thirty-six states and the federal government expanded its use and provenance” (Garland et. all 73).
“Since 1977, 611 people have been executed in the United States …. xecutions in the U. S. have been carried out at an increasing rate, with more than half of the executions since 1976 having occurred in the last five years” (Barry). The United States has used many different methods to execute prisoners over the years. Two of the first methods were hanging and firing squad. Although these methods are considered archaic now, there are still some states that allow the use of hanging and firing squads. These states that can still use hanging are Delaware, New Hampshire, and Washington.
States that can still use firing squads are Idaho, Oklahoma, and Utah. Another method of execution that was used for years in the U. S. is the electric chair. There is currently only one state that still uses the electric chair as its main method of execution, which is Nebraska. Another method that is rarely used but is still on the books for some states is the gas chamber. Writer Scott Christianson says, “The earliest gas chamber for execution purposes was constructed in the Nevada state penitentiary at Carson city and first employed on February 8, 1924 …(1).
States that still have the gas chamber are Arizona, California, Missouri, and Wyoming. The main source of execution for all states with the death penalty [with the exception of Nebraska is lethal injection. Lethal injection is puts poisonous drugs into a person’s bloodstream to kill them. However because the poisonous drug is so expensive some states are starting to use the same drug to put down animals for human beings. Advocates claim that having the death penalty for crimes deters crime because they think people are scared of punishment; however, the death penalty does not deter crime.
The death penalty is useless because the criminals committing the crime are not thinking about the death penalty but rather how to stay alive. “The attempt to reduce murders in the drug trade by threat of severe punishment ignores the fact that anyone trafficking in illegal drugs is already risking his life in violent competition with other dealers. It is irrational to think that the death penalty – a remote threat at best – will avert murders committed in drug turf wars or by street-level dealers” (Bedau). This shows that the death penalty is not stopping murders from occurring.
The introduction to the death penalty conducted a survey were top criminologists stated that the death penalty does not deter homicide rates (Introduction). “For 2009, the average Murder Rate of Death Penalty States was 4. 9 [Murder rates by the 100,000], while the average Murder Rate of States without the Death Penalty was 2. 8” (Introduction). Not only does the death penalty not deter crime but it is also very expensive. The death penalty costs so much because of the appeal process. The appeal process is a very long and expensive process that can go on forever and costs the government millions.
Many assume that abolishing the death penalty is wrong because it becomes unfair to the taxpayers because they think the cost is less than that of life in prison without parole. However life in prison is less expensive than the death penalty (Bedau). The death penalty is actually three times more than keeping a prisoner in prison for life without parole (Messerli). Death penalty trials are costly as well. “[S]tudies estimate that death penalty trials cost $1 million more than trials in which the prosecutors seek life without parole” (Introduction).
Therefore the government needs to stop executing people because it is unfair to the taxpayers. The death penalty costs one-hundred thirty-seven million dollars annually. Writer John Van De Kamp says, “With California facing its most severe financial crisis in recent memory—with draconian cuts about to be imposed from Sacramento that will affect every resident of the state—it would be crazy not to consider the fact that it [The Death Penalty] will add as much as $1 billion over the next five years simply to keep the death penalty on the books. Therefore the government needs to rid of the death penalty in order to put taxpayer’s money to better use.
One of the biggest problems with the death penalty is that it is racially imbalanced. Juries assign the death penalty more often to minorities than to Whites. “Capital punishment opponents argue that racial bias on the behalf of prosecutors, judges, and juries results in disproportionately high numbers of convicts and death penalties for African-American defendants” (“Issues”). The defendant who is a person of color is much more likely to get the death penalty if the victim is white. [A]s of 2002, 12 people have been executed where the defendant was white and the murder victim was black, compared with a 178 black defendants executed for murders with white victims” (Bedau).
There are still these uneven numbers in death row to this day. There has been evidence in murder cases that juries have been racist and have sentenced some people to prison while others, mostly black, have been given the death penalty (Bedau). Minorities are disproportionately given the death penalty with a 43% of executions since 1976 and a 55% awaiting the death penalty (Bedau).
These facts are shameful to the country. Another big reason why the U. S. shouldn’t have the death penalty is the financial imbalance among defendants. People who have money have a better chance of being proved innocent because they can afford better attorneys than poor people. Professor Scott Philip from the University of Denver says, “Defendants who hired counsel for the entire case were never sentenced to death. Even defendants who hired counsel for a portion of the case were substantially less likely to be sentenced to death than defendants with appointed counsel” (American).
These who can’t afford attorneys have to rely on public defenders, who are incredibly overburdened in their jobs and are sometimes in competent. “Poor people accused of capital crimes are often defended by lawyers who lack the skills, resources, and commitment to handle such serious matters. This fact is confirmed in case after case” (Bright). This unfortunate act committed in this country leads to people being wrongfully sentenced. Because of the racial and financial imbalances, even proponents of capital punishment should recognize that the system is broken.
A part of the death penalty that people tend to avoid is the fact that woman and men are executed (Messerli). Wrongly sentenced people are one of the biggest problems with the death penalty. “How many innocent people will the United States execute before we stop this barbaric punishment? ” (Dicks 31). The number of people that have been executed, that were later found innocent is not the ideal numbers that people want to hear. “Total of 69 people have been released from death row since 1973 after evidence of their innocence emerged” (Dieter).
In the Bedau-Radelet report on ‘Miscarriages of Justice in Potentially Capital Cases,’ it was reported that 350 people have been wrongfully sentenced, twenty-three of which were actually killed by the state before they were found to have been innocent” (Dicks 79). There is no way to ensure that this won’t sometimes happen, so the U. S. can’t ethically use the death penalty. The biggest reason that there should not be a death penalty is that it is morally wrong. “It violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (Abolish).
It also can’t undo what’s already been done. It is useless in that it doesn’t bring the victim back to life” (Messerli). The death penalty doesn’t help anybody and doesn’t show that killing is ok. Therefore, “It sends the wrong message: why kill people who kill people to show killing is wrong” (Messerli). The United States is one of the most elite nations in the world; however, people in the U. S. don’t have the sense to get rid of the death penalty. The penalty is inhumane and should be abolished in the United States. This punishment goes against everything the U. S. stands for and it is a denial a humans rights to live.
Throughout our history, critics have tried to brand the death penalty as the vestige of a mad primitive age, a practice that an enlightened society would reject. And each time they have advanced their case—but only so far” (Kay). People need a government that is fair to all and does not deny people their rights to live. People need a government that will not just settle with just, but will fight for what is right for the people of the United States of America. “Why should a nation that casts itself as a leader in the battle for human rights resist so tenaciously the elimination of a practice so self-evidently a holdover from darker times? ”