The Death Penalty: Right or Wrong? The death penalty is one of the main solutions to prevent crime rates in different states. It should be legalized in all fifty states, to avert from crime, keep repeat offenders off of the streets, and to reduce taxpayers the cost of keeping those found guilty of immoral crimes in prison low. The death penalty can, in fact, prevent outrageous crimes from being committed when it is lawful in a state.
Social scientists have stated, “The act of general deterrence, which is when the punishment dissuaded potential criminals from committing crimes, keeps criminals from going through with crimes” (Baird and Rosenbaum). Heinous crimes have been reduced highly in the states that have a capital punishment law such as Texas. Not only does it keep criminals from going through with the crimes, it causes the offenders to suffer for their wrong actions. Many states have passed the law of the death penalty, while other states, such as New York, claim that it is morally wrong and does not solve the problem.
Though I can concur with the states that have not passed the law, by putting these deviant people to death, it will cause safer environments for the innocent. For a particular state such as Texas to be able to say they have less crime due to a solution is impressive; every state should want to have the ability to say the same. In Austin, Texas, the population is 768,970, the violence crime is 5. 23, and the murder and nonnegligent manslaughter is 0. 03 (Miller).
Though the population is less in Buffalo, New York, with a population of 268,655, there is more crime here. The violence crime is 14. 59 while the murder and nonnegligent manslaughter is 0. 22 (Miller). There has to be a reason why crime is so high in New York and not as high in Texas; the answer is most likely the death penalty. Though it is a very dirty job to execute these criminals, it is ultimately more helpful then harmful. Part of what the death penalty is doing is setting an example for those people who are also doing crime to consider their actions first. Evidence for capital punishment’s general deterrent effect comes from three sources: logic, firsthand reporters, and social science research” (Cassell and Bedau 189). Logic supports the conclusion that the death penalty is the most effective deterrent for some kinds of murders, those that require reflection and forethought by persons of reasonable intelligence and unimpaired mental faculties. Firsthand reports from criminals and victims confirm our logical intuition that the death penalty deters (Cassell and Bedau 190).
Senator Dianne Feinstein recounted her experience in the 1960s sentencing of a women convicted of robbery in the first degree. She asked the women why was the gun that she brought unloaded, the women replayed, “So I would not panic, kill somebody, and get the death penalty” (Cassell and Bedau 190). This is a great example of how the death penalty does cause people to question their actions before they go through with them. Even if this was the only case where a life was saved, one innocent life is worth putting to death a psycho killer.
Texas is one of many states showing the greatest relative improvements overtime due to the death penalty. Not only does the death penalty deter crimes but it also saves innocent lives. Individuals against the death penalty argue that it is not the cause of less crime, all the death penalty is, is murder. In reality, it has been proven otherwise that it does, in fact, save innocent lives. By keeping the criminals in prisons their whole lives, we are faced with other possible problems such as: breaking out of jail, killing of prison guards or other inmates. Statistical studies and common sense aside, it’s undeniable that the death penalty saves some lives: those of the prison guards and other inmates who would otherwise be killed by murderers serving life sentences without parole, and of people who might otherwise encounter murderous escapees” (Stuart). States such as New York believe it is immorally wrong to execute criminals and they are better off “rotting” in prison. Yes, in certain cases, they deserve life in prison with no parole over the death penalty, but they are those other cases that deserve more harsh punishment.
While capital punishment is a good thing to have, it is also not something we can mess up to wrongly accuse someone. In the movie Green Mile, crazy Bill deserved to die. He was evil and always trying to plot a way to break out or attack one of the guards. If he was successful in doing so, one of them could have been killed, or he would have been free to hurt and kill many other people. The way he raped and killed those girls was disgusting and he should never be able to affect any others. John, on the other hand, did not deserve to die.
His whole case was a misunderstanding; he was caught trying to save the young girls while everyone thought he was the murderer. John’s case is exactly why the government needs to look deep into every situation before putting them on death row. Being put on death row is a long and dreadful process. In spite of this, “Public polls regularly reveal that at least fifty percent of the American people are in favor of the death penalty for crimes of murder” (Cassell and Bedau 20). The other fifty percent needs to look past the killing of one deviant person and look at all the lives that are being saved.
John McAdams said it perfectly, “If we execute murderers and there is in fact no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims. I would much rather risk the former. This, to me, is not a tough call. ” He is basically saying that by executing murderers to deter crime, it is better to kill them with no affects then not kill them and allow criminals to go through with their crime.
Many Americans argue not only about the death penalty not deterring but also the expense of it. A 1991 study of the Texas criminal justice system estimated the cost of appealing capital murder at $2,316,655 (Baird and Rosenbaum 109). Some expenses include money for the trial, state appeals, federal appeals and death row housing. In contrast, the cost of housing a prisoner in a Texas maximum security prison single cell for 40 years is estimated at 750,000 (Baird and Rosenbaum 109).
Advocators that are against capital punishment argue that the death penalty is more expensive because of the appeals then life in prison without parole. Supporters of the death penalty, however, point out that, while they advocate proper review of the cases, both the lengthy time and the high expense result from innumerable appeals, many over “technicalities” which have little or nothing to do with the question of guilt or innocence, and do little more than jam up nations court system. If these “frivolous” appeals were eliminated, the procedure would neither take so long nor cost so much.
After going over the math for the costs of both life with out parole and executions, there is still an issue with the space all of the inmates will be taking up. “The prison and jail population have risen to two million over the past decade” (Reynolds). By putting more and more people on life without parole is just causing there to be less room for people who did less of a harmful crime. What is the point of keeping them around when they are just going to die eventually anyway? If they did something really severe, then they deserve to die. They are waiting in rison for nothing, no hope to leave those prison walls. It might sound cruel to use that as a solution to the problem of an increasing amount of inmates in prison, but in defense, they are living for nothing. They wake up everyday with no goals, drive, or improvements that need to be made. They are not moving forward with their lives because they are only awaiting their deaths, while taking up space in the prisons that could possibly be for people that will eventually be free. Americans also argue that mostly everyone on death row is minorities.
As of December 2005, there were thirty-seven prisoners under a sentence of death in the federal system. Of these prisoners, 43. 2 percent were white, while 54. 1 percent were African-American (Muhlhausen). The fact that African Americans are a majority of federal prisoners on death row and a minority in the overall United States population may lead some to conclude that the federal system discriminates against African-Americans. However, there is little rigorous evidence that such disparities exist in the federal system.
African Americans make up thirteen percent of the nations monthly drug users, they represent thirty-five percent of those arrested for drug possessions, fifty-three percent of those convicted of drug offenses, and seventy-five percent of those convicted of drug offenses category (Cassell and Bedau 95). In reality, the reason African Americans are normally the ones to be in trouble with the government is usually because of the areas the majority of them grew up in. Racial minorities in the United States are also disproportionately poor.
Because they are poor, they are faced with trying to survive and they will do whatever means necessary, including murder. Looking back on history, all executions were being done in public. They were hanged in the middle of the town for everyone to witness the killing of these criminals. The reason the executions were being done in public was because it was centered around the issue of deterrence. It was to inhibit anyone contemplating the same deed as the condemned (Baird and Rosenbaum 110). The people only saw what the government was doing, and saw it as cruel and inhuman.
Because they did not also witness what the criminal did they started to believe the government was wrong and it caused the government to look bad. “Granting his [Timothy McVeigh] request [for a public execution] allows the moral distinction between him and the rest of us to slip away. It makes it look as if we are all just as bloodthirsty as he” (ProCon). In other words, while this act is being done in the open, it makes the public believe that the government is just as much of a criminal as the one being executed. Now, we go about the death penalty in a different way.
Today executions are done with a limited audience, the way it should be. Because the killer took a family’s loved one away, those family members should have the right to watch the criminal be persecuted. Opponents of Capital punishment are also wondering if state-sponsored killing is the best way for victims’ family members to cope with their tragedy. “Life without the possibility of parole is severe, swift and less costly than the death penalty and allows victims’ families to move on with their lives and healing” (“Death Penalty Cases”).
Yes, it is a dreadful memory for the victim’s families to relive but it is worth the suffering for a little in order to make sure this criminal never has another opportunity to hurt another life. After the case is closed and the criminal is put to death the families of the victim will be able to have a sense of closure. Just like the sick man in Green Mile, Billy, raped and brutally killed two very young girls who did not deserve what he did to them. Although they killed the wrong man, John, the family of the two girls was there to witness it.
While he was being put to death, the family was able to have a sense of relief that this man was not going to keep his life and get away with what he did. Though it does not bring the victim back, it is the next best solution and it will help the families sleep better at night knowing they got what they deserved, the right consequences for their actions. In every murder case, the victims never have a voice to fight for themselves and to make sure the murderer gets what he rightfully deserves. It is the family of the victims’ responsibility to be that voice that fights for the victim, because their voice was taken from them.
For example, Kenneth Allen McDuss raped, tortured, and murdered at least nine women in Texas in the early 1990s, and probably many more (Cassell and Bedau 183). The facts of just one such killing will reveal the horror of his crimes. On December 29, 1991, in Austin, Texas, McDuss and his accomplice manhandled 28-year-old Colleen Reed into the back of a car driven by this accomplice. Reed screamed in terror for him to let her go but McDuss forced her in the car and tied her hands behind her back. While the accomplice drove to a secluded location, McDuss began to strike and rape the defenseless women in the back seat.
After he was done with the violation, he decided to puff cigarettes into a cherry glow, and inserted them into her vagina. Finally, as Reed begged for her life, he killed her by crushing her neck. He later says, “Killing a woman is like killing a chicken…they both squawk” (Cassell and Bedau 184). For a man to say that is utterly disturbing and horrific. Any man who violates and kills a woman for whatever reason deserves to have his own life taken away. Because of her aggressive family who became her voice when she did not have one, he was executed in 1998 (Cassell and Bedau 184).
What exactly are we defending by abolishing the death penalty? States such as New York are allowing these monsters to go on living and possibly have the chance to walk free again. Twenty years prior to the rape and murder of Colleen Reed, McDuss was sentenced to death but was able to escape his sentence. He was released in 1989 by Texas authorities who indirectly caused him to finish his killing spree (Cassell and Bedau 184). If he was executed to begin with, all of the women he murdered would have been able to die normal, peaceful deaths home with their family and loved ones.
By allowing sick criminals the ability to keep living, we are killing many more innocent lives, possibly one of our siblings, parents’ cousins or best friends. Bringing ourselves to agree to murder someone may seem unfair or morally wrong, but it needs to be our job to put the safety of our environment before our personal feelings. Some Americans view capital punishment as morally and ethically wrong; they equate the death penalty with legalized murder, and asks: “If the premeditated killing of another human being is wrong, how does the premeditated killing of the murderer make it right?
Should not society repudiate the death penalty and emphasize mercy rather than revenge? ” (Sarat 160). These questions asked by death penalty opponents are legitimate questions for society to consider. The debate surrounding the death penalty includes discussion of the sanctity of human life, personal responsibility, and the role of the state in administering justice. Yet, for all this complexity, the death penalty remains primarily a form of punishment. It assumes that human life is sacred, and that the killers who take the lives of their victims forfeit the rights to their own.
Capital punishment is viewed differently in every state in America. While states such as Texas are advocates of the death penalty, other states such as New York refuse to pass the law that allows the government to kill. Opponents of the death penalty argue about the affect it has on the victims’ families, the cost, deterrence, those wrongfully convicted and race discrimination. Though some of these are valid points, after doing research it is very fair and in all of these cases, they did not give the victim a choice so therefore we should not give them one.
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