Why The Death Penalty Is A Bad Thing
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Politics and Activism

Why The Death Penalty Is A Bad Thing

The death penalty is unconstitutional.

Why The Death Penalty Is A Bad Thing
Archdiocese of Dubuque

In the United States, the execution of the death penalty is highly debated. While many believe the death penalty is justifiable depending on the severity of the crime committed, others consider this sentence to be unfair and—above all else—unconstitutional.

Today, thirty states implement the death penalty, while twenty do not. If the death penalty is constitutionally sound, why is it that all states do not enforce it? Personally, I question capital punishment and believe that it should be abolished for multiple reasons, including the fact that it lies under “cruel and unusual punishment,” and the pros of life sentences as retribution, but perhaps the most important of these reasons is that it is simply unconstitutional.

The main argument of the death penalty is not necessarily about the penalty itself, but the way in which it is carried out. In the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, it states that “excessive bail shall not be required, not excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted." There has been much controversy over defining “cruel and unusual punishment,” for its meaning is incredibly vague and left up to interpretation. The Constitution and the Supreme Court often have poor track records of protecting things and making just verdicts that lie in these sort of gray areas.

All of the states that enforce the death penalty use lethal injection as the primary method of execution, although, there are alternatives; electrocution is authorized in eight states, the gas chamber in five, hanging in three, and a firing squad in two. Are these methods not cruel and unusual? Personally, I find them grotesque and barbaric. What is believed to be cruel and unusual are things like crucifixion, torture on the rack, drawing and quartering, tarring and feathering, dismemberment, and being restrained in a stockade.

The Supreme Court has often explained when concerns over the death penalty arise that it is, in fact, constitutional because of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Basically, the Court states that after an individual has received the due process of law, which these Amendments help ensure, then life can be taken. This then implies that one's right to life as defined in the Declaration of Independence is revoked once due process of law has been observed. Exactly how is that fair?

You may be asking yourself why the death penalty is even implemented. Some would say that it was because of things like tradition and justice, but in actuality, it is more of an economic reason. It costs more for prisons to detain inmates for life sentences than it does to kill them via the death penalty. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the entire world, so it is understandable why money seems too tight to keep inmates for life sentences. Although, many criminals are incarcerated for ridiculous amounts of time for petty crimes, thus contributing to the high population of people in jail within the country, but that is an entirely different issue that deserves its own, separate criticism aside from that of the death penalty.

The quickest, most effective way to purge the government from the messiness that is the polygamist marriage between the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments is to simply abolish the idea of capital punishment; let criminals serve their time, however long they may be.

Many people who are pro-death penalty argue that inmates who commit murder and receive life sentences is unjust because of the simple fact that they are still allowed to live whereas their victims do not. My counterargument is that sentencing someone to life in prison DOES NOT mean that they will live forever; this person will eventually die of natural causes. Some people who commit death penalty-deserving crimes want to die; therefore, executing them would be granting them a wish. Is it not more punishing to have to sit in a cell every day for the rest of your life thinking about what you did to land yourself there, and how you will be there with limited and restricted rights and liberties until the day you die? This then plays along into the argument of the death penalty as an act of revenge.

Arguably, the death penalty is an act of retribution for the victim's friends and family. Knowing that someone will pay for whatever tragedy was committed helps relieve some of the pain for those people, but it is only temporary and it is fueled by revenge, revenge that is dressed up under the guise of justice. If these people rounded up a posse and went to kill the individual responsible for whatever turmoil he/she put them through, it would be murder, though some would argue it was vigilante justice. However, having someone else, someone of the law, inject the needles, flip the switch, pull the lever, or pull the trigger to kill this person is considered civil and just despite the fact that it is fueled by the same emotion: revenge-- is that right?

I end my rant with saying that the implementation of the death penalty betrays traditional American values. The main reason why we decided to declare our independence from the tyranny of the British and King George III was because we believed they infringed and intervened too heavily into our lives via taxation, quartering troops, suppressing our rights, etc. We drafted the Constitution to ensure the rights and protections of the people from the government, so why do we still give the government the power to kill its own citizens?

The times are changing, and there are many other Americans out there who would agree with me in saying that the death penalty is unconstitutional and should be abolished. This piece was not meant to sway you in one way or another, but rather to provoke you to question your beliefs on this issue and others from a constitutional standpoint. After all, to truly and fully believe in something is to also understand and acknowledge its opposing side(s).

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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