Con: Is the Death Penalty an Effective Punishment?


Maya Sherne, Online Editor

If you ask a group of students: “is murder wrong,” the majority of them would say yes.  If you ask the same group of students, is the death penalty wrong, some would say yes, and some would say no.  However, the death penalty and murder are essentially the same act – just under different circumstances.

Some people argue that the death penalty is an effective way to prevent crime, and that it has a zero chance of relapse.  They say that it saves money from the expensive fees of imprisonment; and outline that murder is deserving of such severe consequences and punishment.

In contrast, statistics reveal how capital punishment does not prevent homicides, how the correctional system is designed to protect the public and to rehabilitate the offender, and how the cost of imprisoning the offenders for life is cheaper than sentencing them to death.

In fact, in a survey of the former and present presidents of the country’s top academic criminological societies, 88 percent of these experts rejected the notion that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder; a 2009 poll commissioned by Death Penalty Information Center found police chiefs ranked the death penalty last among ways to reduce violent crime.

In a 2007 study of average murder rate per 100,000 across the United States, states with the death penalty had a rate of 4.6, while states without the death penalty had a rate of 2.9.

The death penalty is not an effective way to deter criminals from committing crimes.  Most crimes, not including hate crimes, are based on socio economics (the relationship between economics and social behavior).  So if felons are committing crimes because of the economy, because they “need” more money, then why don’t we spend the $177 million spent on death row inmates per year, the money used to confine the prisoners in maximum security, and put that money into helping sustain the low-income families and single households-those that need the money?

California could help these families get back on their feet, so they would not have to resort to crime, and so there would be no need to spend $175 thousand a year for each inmate; when the average annual cost per regular inmate is only $47,421.

As of Jan. 1, 2013, California had 727 inmates on death row, the highest number of inmates in the United States by nearly 300.

Since 1978, California has spent $4 billion on death row inmates, but only executed thirteen inmates who were sentenced to death.

When you consider the pre-trial costs, the costs of automatic appeals, state habeas corpus petitions, costs of federal habeas corpus appeals, and the costs of incarceration on death row; the average cost per execution is $307,692,308.

In addition, capital punishment must be evaluated as to whether it is suitable under moral conditions; if the pro-death penalty side says that a murderer is deserving of murder; then how is okay to kill the criminals?  Under no circumstance is murder right, but if our government is setting an example of murder, how can we, its citizens, say that it is wrong?

States that have the death penalty do not have a lower homicide rate, and a significant portion of death sentences are later overturned.  In fact, in the past two decades, federal and state courts have overturned 68 percent of the death sentences that have been reviewed due to serious errors in their trials.  In cases that were sent back for retrials, 82 percent of convicted capital defendants received new sentences other than death, including seven percent who were found innocent.

Since it’s a violation of basic human rights, it is not cost effective, it is irrevocable, and does not prevent murders, but in face sets an example that murder is all right, why do we have the death penalty in the first place?

It is understandable why a victim’s family would look to the death penalty as a justifiable punishment for convicted murderers, but taking a life will not erase the pain.  The criminals death would just demean the death of the victim.

Lastly, the executions of the convicts are inhumane.  Although the state makes “special arrangements” for the convict before his execution, he has only 24 hours to say his final goodbyes before his death.  The execution can be witnessed by up to 50 individuals, commonly the families of the victims.  The spectators make the execution seem less like a punishment for a crime, and more like an act of revenge.

The death penalty has yet to show its positive side to society.  Statistics not only show that it does not decrease homicide rates, but that the death penalty has a negative effect on society.  If our nation is determined to reach peace and end the cycle of violence, then the death penalty should come to an end.

All uncited material was provided by The California Innocence Project.