Should capital punishment be banned?
Capital punishment should not be banned. A majority of Americans support the death penalty, and the Supreme Court has ruled that it is constitutional. Further, capital punishment reinforces our bedrock social contract of law and order--actions have consequences. An orderly society needs boundaries for acceptable behavior and just punishments to fit the crimes. Some crimes are so monstrous that imposing a sentence of death is the only appropriate penalty, as a prison sentence for a capital crime is disproportionate to the offense committed.
In addition to providing society with a sense that justice was served, capital punishment has other advantages; principally, it saves money. An inmate on death row is estimated to cost $1.12 million more than a general population inmate. The potential savings to taxpayers for the more than 2500 death row inmates is nearly $3 billion.
Another potential benefit to keeping the death penalty is its deterrent value. While it may not dissuade hardened criminals from carrying out their dastardly deeds, capital punishment may have a dampening effect on those who, in a fit of rage, might otherwise turn to deadly force. They may determine that the finality of capital punishment is not the legacy they wish to leave for their loved ones. And while there is no way to calculate the number of lives the threat of a death penalty has saved, it’s correct to say that it eliminates the possibility of the offender escaping from prison to commit more mayhem on society. Capital punishment serves as a safety valve for a society built on laws.
Currently, 27 states in America have laws allowing capital punishment, indicating that it deters crime. As capital punishment is generally only used in individual states in cases of murder, the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) analyzed US murder data from 1987-2015 to determine if it is indeed an effective deterrent. Taking data from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, the DPIC showed that death penalty states have a murder rate 1.39 times higher than those states that don’t use the death penalty. The DPIC also reported that states with the death penalty account for 22 of the 25 states with the highest incidence of felony murders of police officers.
Those seeking to justify capital punishment often quote the Old Testament’s lex talionis principle of “an eye for an eye” (Leviticus 24:20). However, if we accept Newsweek’s account of a study released by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in 2014, 4.1% of individuals sentenced to death between 1973 and 2014 were innocent. Some of the innocent were exonerated (1.6%), leaving room for concern that capital punishment in the US may lead to the unintentional murder of innocents in the name of morality.
Considering the potential for wrongful execution and the fact that capital punishment does not serve as a deterrent, capital punishment should be banned in the US.
- In 1972 the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty, as was practiced, was unconstitutional; however, in 1976, it was reinstated under a “model of guided discretion.”
- Between 1976 and 2021, there have been 1,533 executions in the US.
- Methods of execution in death penalty cases consist of lethal injection, electrocution, gas chamber, hanging, and firing squad.
- Since 1976, the death penalty has been abolished for all crimes in more than 75 different countries.