Humans, no matter how developed or advanced, are animals at root. From the beginning of time, people have committed crimes—killed, raped, stolen—succumbing to those natural primal tendencies. As society advanced, laws were put into place establishing severe punishments for those who could not control their urges to act without morality and concern for others. From ancient Egypt to modern day, death has been used as a penalty for those willing to break the rules. Precedent set aside, the death penalty should be made legal in all fifty states because it is cost-efficient, constitutionally correct, and has a proven deterrent impact on society.
To end capital punishment would be to change millennia of successful societal governing standards.
Looking at the topic from a financial standpoint, it is logically more cost-efficient to relieve prisons of those convicted of heinous crimes meriting the death penalty. The United States currently has 2.3 million people confined to correctional facilities, which is more than any other nation per capita (Wagner & Sawyer, 2018).
The sheer amount of incarcerated people alone notifies anyone who investigates that something is wrong with the United States prison system. It costs, on average, more than $31,000 per year to house a single inmate (Mills, 2017). Over 180,000 of the 2.3 million incarcerated are murder convicts (Wagner & Sawyer, 2018). By multiplying these two numbers, one discovers that United States taxpayers spend at least $5.6 billion per year to house murderers. The United States Supreme Court in the 1977 case Coker v. Georgia ruled that the death penalty is permissible if it is proportional to the crime, making murderers indisputable candidates for capital punishment (LII Staff, 2007).
Essentially, by taking only people convicted of murder through due process and sentencing them to death, it becomes much cheaper to legalize and utilize the death penalty—without even beginning to delve into the realm of those convicted of other heinous crimes. The $5.6 billion of taxpayer’s money could go towards something more productive, like housing the homeless or perhaps working to fix the nation’s disastrous recidivism rate. Furthermore, the death penalty should be legalized because it is constitutionally correct. The Supreme Court ruled in the 1976 case Gregg v. Georgia that the death penalty was not unconstitutional (LII Staff, 2007). Morally, some people still believe the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution; however, solitary confinement—which is extensively utilized in the United States—proves to be more “cruel and unusual” than death itself. Solitary confinement, given to around 80,000 people, involves locking the prisoner “in a cell by themselves that’s 13 by 7 [feet] for 23 hours a day” sometimes for years (Boghani, 2017). Solitary confinement leads many to develop serious psychological problems. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law wrote in a study that “psychological stressors such as isolation can be as clinically distressing as physical torture.” Torture—one of the most easily defined means of “cruel and unusual punishment”—is occurring in the United States prison system right now. The so-called “cruelty” that death penalty opponents advocate against pales in comparison to the torture inmates face in solitary confinement. Capital punishment is not only constitutional, but also more humane than alternatives like solitary confinement.
Finally, the death penalty has a proven deterrent impact on society. Many people will look at the evidence and try to skew it one way or another, of course attempting to make it fit their own personal agenda; however, the numbers speak for themselves. A twenty-six-year study done by Pepperdine University found that “there seems to be an obvious negative correlation in that when executions increase, murders decrease, and when executions decrease, murders increase.” Additionally, researchers found that each execution correlates to about seventy-four fewer murders in the following year (Summers & Alder, 2007). Thinking logically, it is easy to conclude that setting high penalties for misbehavior deters crime—no one wants to lose his or her life. If someone commits murder, they exhibit behavior showing no moral bounds, meaning that no amount of punishment is going to fix them; they are a risk to society. To utilize the death penalty is to rid society of obvious threats. Capital punishment has been around for thousands of years for a reason: it works. The death penalty should be made legal in all fifty states because it is cost-efficient, constitutionally correct, and has a proven deterrent impact on society.