Stanley those states executed 35 inmates” (United States,

Stanley R. Carrington


Fall 2017


Death to the Death Penalty: A
Critical Look at Capital Punishment


punishment, otherwise known as the death penalty can be defined as the government
authorized practice where an offender is put to death as punishment for a
criminal act, usually of a more serious nature. Its origins date back to
ancient times in which the Code of Hammurabi lays out the basic punishment for
a crime such as murder. In section 153, it reads “If a woman brings about the
death of her husband for the sake of another man, they shall impale her” (Hammurabi,
1904). This blueprint created the foundation for future societies to introduce
death as a punishment for crime. This deathly trend still continues in America
today. The Bureau of Justice Statistics notes that in 2015, “33 states and the
Federal Bureau of Prisons held 2,881 inmates under the sentence of death. Six
of those states executed 35 inmates” (United States, 2017). The discussion on whether
capital punishment should still be utilized as a form of criminal penalization
has been a widely argued topic. The debate on the subject has waged on for
years with proponents on both sides detailing a litany of reasons why they are either
for or against the act. Some major areas of contention involve the questions of
cost efficiency, wrongful execution, deterrent effectiveness. With those issues
in mind, a proper analysis and interpretation of the available information will
make it evident that capital punishment is an inefficient, ineffective and
inhumane way of punishment.

cost that can be associated with capital punishment is concerning on many
levels. Endless appeals can continue to rack up court costs and unnecessarily clog
the court system. In 2003, Kansas conducted a performance audit that concluded
that the costs incurred throughout a case in which the death penalty was sought
yielded a median dollar amount of 1.26 million. This astounding figure compares
to median amount of 740,000 for a case in which capital punishment is not involved.
The money misspent dealing with the various aspects of a death penalty case could
very well be used in other capacities within the corrections system including offender
education and rehabilitation.

the most frightening element of capital punishment involves the chance that an
innocent person could be wrongfully executed. A 2014, study concluded that “if
all death-sentenced defendants remained under sentence of death indefinitely at
least 4.1% would be exonerated” (Gross, 2014). This translates to 1 in every
25. That one mistake is one too many. Although the probability of a wrongful
execution still appears to be low, the risk is still too high to even take the
chance of executing an offender that may, in fact, be innocent.

proponents of the death penalty argue that its primary function is to serve as
a deterrent in order to, both, prevent initial criminal acts from taking place and
reducing recidivism, or the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend. A study
conducted by the University of Colorado’s Michael Radelet and Traci Lacock (2009)
took on the question of capital punishment and it’s use as a deterrent. Their
work concluded that 88.2% of the polled criminologists do not believe the death
penalty is a deterrent. In addition, 86% of the experts advised that they
believed abolishing the death penalty would significantly affect the murder
rate (p.502).

have to move on from eye for an eye mentality. In order to show that killing
wrong, the last thing we should do is kill some more. Violates the “cruel and
unusual” clause of the Bill of Rights

empathy must be felt for those who have experienced the loss of a loved one because
of someone else’s actions; however, our society must not let emotion dictate
how we punish even the most heinous of crimes. Too often, the words justice and
revenge are thought to mean the same thing. It is here where we must draw a
clear distinction. Leon F. Seltzer (2014) puts it best in making a comparison
between the two terms. He states that revenge is based on emotion; where
justice is rational. Revenge is often personal; where justice is impartial. Revenge
is rooted in retaliation; where justice is about restoring balance. Revenge is an
act of vindictiveness; where justice is about vindication. It is in this
vindication we must find solace, because justice that involves the taking of
another life is not justice in its true sense. As citizens, we have a duty to exhibit
our willingness to be better people than those who try to harm us or those close
to us. If we lead by example and live by those ideals, our society can escape
the outdated methods of the past and set new standards and precedents for
criminal penalties, that don’t include the use of capital punishment.