Death Penalty: Ineffective, Inconsistent, & Barbaric
Table of Contents
The debate over the death penalty is not new, and the evidence against it is overwhelming. Many studies have shown that the death penalty fails to prevent serious crimes and that the methods of execution are not reliable or humane. Some supporters of the death penalty argue that the suffering of the condemned is justified by the crimes they committed. They claim that the criminals did not show any mercy to their victims, so they deserve to suffer during their execution. Statistically speaking, the death penalty is neither humane or effective and reveals the barbaric nature of any society implementing it as a form of justice.
The Death Penalty is Ineffective
However, the statistics do not support this argument. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, 19 people were executed in five states in 2023, with Texas alone accounting for 10 of them. But states that do not have the death penalty have lower murder rates than those that do. For example, Wisconsin, which abolished the death penalty in 1853, has a murder rate that is half of that of Texas and Florida, which frequently execute people.
Moreover, there is evidence that the death penalty may actually increase murder. A survey by The New York Times found that states with the death penalty had homicide rates that were 48% to 101% higher than those without it.
Emphasizing the ineffectiveness, police do not see this punishment as effective. A survey of police chiefs ranked the death penalty lowest among ways to reduce violent crime. There is no proof that the death penalty deters future murders, and that states without the death penalty have lower murder rates than those with it. Furthermore, the United States is one of 55 countries globally with a legal death penalty, according to Amnesty International. However, many countries that have abolished the death penalty, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, have lower murder rates than the United States.
The Death Penalty is Inconsistent & Unfair
The death penalty is not only ineffective, but also inconsistent. Another reason to oppose the death penalty is that it is inconsistent as a form of justice. What is a death penalty offense in one state may not be in another. Even within states, a crime that is a death penalty offense may be given leniency for any number of arbitrary reasons. The application of capital punishment depends largely on factors such as the state, the county, the race of the defendant and the victim, the quality of legal representation, and the political pressure on prosecutors and judges. This results in arbitrariness and disproportionality in who receives a death sentence and who does not. The Supreme Court recognized this problem in 1972 when it struck down all death penalty laws as unconstitutional. However, since then, many states have reinstated capital punishment with new statutes that have failed to eliminate inconsistency and unfairness. Therefore, the death penalty violates the principle of equal justice under law.
Want more proof? Ex-president Trump has been charged with "three conspiracy counts and the corrupt obstruction of an official proceeding" for his role in the riots of January Sixth. Five people died during the Capital Riot he has not been charged with any manslaughter or murder charges while people currently face the death penalty for having killed far fewer.
A dire inconsistency proven by decades of the death penalty's use is the bias, classism, and prejudice that seeps into the justice system. Blacks are disproportionately targeted by the legal system for the death penalty. This racial disparity amongst Blacks and Whites is time and time again show to be a case of systemic racism yet the criminal justice system fails to adjust its methods.
Cruel & Unusual Punishment
The state has the duty to ensure that the death penalty is not imposed or carried out in a cruel or unusual way. But this Constitutional requirement has been violated many times in the history of the United States. There have been cases of botched executions by hanging, lethal injection, and electric chair. One of the most notorious examples was the first public execution by electrocution in 1890, when William Kemmler was subjected to several shocks until he died a slow and agonizing death, but there have been plenty more examples since that time. Electrocution has been one of the most poorly implemented execution with people catching fire and surviving the first round of electricity. This reality begs the question: if the death penalty cannot be implemented in a humane manner then how is it not cruel and unusual?
Some supporters of the death penalty may think such suffering is acceptable for murderers. They may cite notorious cases like Ted Bundy to justify their position. They may say that his suffering was nothing compared to what he did to his victims. This argument ignores the Constitution and the law, but more so shows the barbaric nature of the death penalty.
The Inhumanity of the Death Penalty & Cost
The idea that punishment should fit the crime is old adage and useless in most instances because in practice, punishment rarely fits the crime – and why should it? Other than revenge there exists no rational reason to inflict the same suffering on the accused as the victim. Yet there are good reasons to not impose the death penalty.
If we take the case of Ted Bundy, or any serial killer, little psychiatric knowledge has been discovered since these cases are so rare and the individuals tend to not be forthcoming. Ted Bundy was executed and much of his profile has been gleaned from second hand sources because in the fury to kill him the state of Florida overlooked his psychological and forensic value.
Wouldn't it be nice if we learned what motivates these killers so we could stop them before they murder?
There are many arguments against killing, and, one not even mentioned above, is that of fallibility. How could anyone implement such a severe and final solution when the criminal justice system is riddled with false imprisonment, corruption, mistakes, and bias? Undeniable are mistakes yet the death penalty continues to be implemented primarily due to the desire to impart retribution.
We cannot choose to follow or ignore the law based on our emotions. This can lead to dangerous consequences for our society. Police brutality is already a problem worsened by public outrage when dealing with crime. When we let our emotions override our reason and justice, we are going back to a time when there were no Miranda Rights and lynch mobs.
Inhumane is the death penalty.
It would be nice to say it is a throwback to a primitive past that controlled populations through fear and violence, but it is not. The death sentence is a ugly lens into the United States where emotionalism rise above rational discourse and turns just into a barbaric show. If you think this is an exaggeration then you are delusional since you deny the facts that the death penalty has never been shown to reduce or deter crime. You have to also deny the reality that there is no reliable or humane way to execute people, and therefore the practice is unconstitutional. We know the death penalty is a grotesque violation of human rights.
We are only left to wonder the identity of these bastards of lawmaking and their constituency?