Growing up in a rural, conservative area, I was taught that the death penalty is the right thing for some criminals - that when someone does something "worthy of death," they deserve to be condemned to that ultimate punishment. That idea never sat well with me, even, if not especially, as a young, impressionable child. As I've grown up, I've come to realize that I still stand by my intuition. I believe that our generation needs to be the one to abolish the death penalty once and for all. And I'll tell you why:
1. It costs the government more in the long run.
In order to be sentenced to execution, even more trials have to be carried out. Trials are expensive, plain and simple, and they're spaced out over long periods of time. This means more money is going into it. Add it all up and the multi-millions of dollars put into getting a criminal to execution (which isn't even a sure outcome) would be more wisely spent by locking them up for life without the chance of parole.
2. It does not lower murder rates or deter criminals.
The death penalty has been a thing forever, but even with the huge rise in its use (in the United States) in the 1900s, murder rates didn't drop. When looking at the numbers, murder rates correlated in the 1900s with world events like the Great Depression or Vietnam War, not with usage of the death penalty. Murderers aren't thinking about the consequences. They don't care about the threat of being sentenced to death.
3. It promotes poor coping methods for victims' families over professional help.
It baffles me how many people support the death penalty by saying things like, "If someone hurt my loved one, I would want to see them die." What happens if someone hurts your loved one and they aren't sentenced to death? Wanting someone to die because they hurt a loved one isn't effective in solving the root of the problem: grief. Capital punishment creates the false idea that someone's death will benefit another. Time and money would be better spent offering professional services to families of victims.
4. People sometimes are found innocent - either before their execution or after it's too late.
There have been hundreds on death row who were acquitted of their charges. They spent life in jail for crimes they did not commit and almost lost their lives as well. Some weren't so lucky, and that honestly breaks my heart. It should break yours too. Innocent people were strapped into an electric chair, injected with poison, or fired at for crimes they did not commit.
5. The system is racially biased.
There have been studies proving that jurors in some states are more likely to convict a black criminal to the death penalty over a white one. In addition, criminals who killed a white victim were far more likely to get the death penalty than those who killed a black victim. Why would anyone want to support something so serious that is so easily swayed by racism? Something that determines one life matters more than another? How is that justice?
6. Mentally ill people are put to death.
Ten percent of those sentenced to death are mentally ill, according to Amnesty International and the National Association on Mental Illness. Someone who is mentally ill, such as one who has PTSD and other mental illnesses from serving overseas, is not fit to defend themselves or be put to death for something that they may not even have understood.
7. We should not be the ones who get to decide life and death.
As people who obviously make mistakes, are swayed by biases, and don't possess perfect knowledge, something as permanent as death should not be placed in our hands.
I understand that in many situations putting someone to death for their crimes is seen as "justified." I understand the grief and the anger from those left behind. However, if we take a step back and examine all of the facts we can see that the death penalty isn't the foolproof solution to the problem. It isn't the best option on any level, whether that be monetarily, emotionally, or morally.
For more information on the fight to abolish the death penalty, visit: http://www.ncadp.org/