Should Capital Punishment End?

In most developed countries, the death penalty no longer exists as a response to violent crime. And that makes sense. Why would a civilized society put anyone to death? The most popular argument in favor of the death penalty is a simple one: it brings the families of victims closure. Great. But the violent offender probably found joy in committing the crime. Why is it any better than the families of victims find joy in an execution?

It might sound cold, but civilization runs smoothly when we separate ourselves from the animals. When we resort to our baser instincts, things tend to run far less smoothly.

Society is rife with these types of problems. Insurance is supposed to protect people from the financial effects of a disease like COVID-19 — but people lost their jobs and insurance literally because of COVID-19’s effect on the economy, and then went bankrupt as a result. How twisted is that? Incarceration works similarly in the United States. We incarcerate people in facilities run by for-profit organizations, which means they get paid for each new inmate they’re able to take. This gives them a great reason to keep people incarcerated. Make sense? Nope.

A UMBC website ran an opinion piece written by Lauren Gantman arguing for the abolition of the death penalty in the United States. She wrote: “There is no ethical way to kill another human being, and even more concerning, there is no guarantee that a fair trial has been conducted to deliver an inmate to death row.”

Gantman shares the National Academy of Science’s statistic that an appalling four percent of those convicted and sent to death row are actually innocent of the crimes for which they were accused. 

Lauren wrote: “In his final moments, Dustin Higgs, convicted of bullying co-conspirator Willis Mark Haynes into killing three women in 1996, asserted his innocence. Although Haynes states in an affidavit that Higgs had no part of influence in the murders, on January 16, Higgs became the thirteenth and final federally executed inmate under former President Trump.”

One study in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies found that juries find Black defendants guilty at an 81 percent rate while they find white defendants guilty at a 66 percent rate — when there are no Black jury members, of course. Which leads us to the obvious: there is a disparity between what constitutes “justice” depending on a person’s ethnicity. African Americans suffer from unfair prosecution more than their white counterparts, and it needs to stop. The first step might be ending capital punishment before anyone else innocent can be put to death.

What are the alternatives? First, we need to create a system that incarcerates only those who are an actual danger to society — and people who smoke or deal pot don’t fit into that category. Second, we need to focus on changing the underlying conditions that result in criminality, i.e. poverty and lack of education. Third, we need to add another focus on allowing those in prison to feel productive when it might otherwise be impossible.

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