Pro: Is the Death Penalty an Effective Punishment?

Claire Marvin, Reviews and Columns Editor

In the wake of the recent Boston bombings, there has been great speculation as to whether or not prosecutors are going to rightfully seek the death penalty for 19-year-old bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Massachusetts currently does not have a death penalty, but this act of terrorism has legislators, and the country, divided on the issue.

In a morally conscious society like we have today, the death penalty is always a source of controversy. Nobody likes to condemn other humans to death, even when they might actually deserve it. “Deserving it” does not mean that the guilty individual stole someone’s lunch money or cheated in a game of poker; someone can only “deserve” the death penalty if they are sane and knowingly and maliciously ended another individual’s life, or committed a vile injustice such as rape, kidnapping or torture of an innocent person.

What’s the point of putting someone away for life who has been duly tried and convicted of such crimes? If they are evil enough to carry out these atrocities, spending 25 years to life in a prison cell isn’t going to give them a whole new outlook on life and surely isn’t going to turn them into a good person.  If anything, a convicted felon is simply going to find other convicted murderers, rapists etc. just like him or her who share the same hate for the people and the society which put them behind bars in the first place.

California is just one of 34 states that permits the death penalty. However, the majority of these states never actually kill those convicted and just let them die off sitting on death row (a prison block or section for prisoners sentenced to death), all the while sucking money out of the pockets of law-abiding and hard-working American citizens. In California it costs around $47,421 per year to keep a regular non-death-row inmate behind bars, and a whopping $175,000 per year to keep a death row inmate around.

The reason inmates often sit on death row for so long is because they are entitled to appeals, which can take quite a while. However, if these states are going to keep the death penalty, then their justice departments need to make these cases a top priority and stop the appeal process from becoming a roundabout circus where convicts abuse the system and purposefully drag out their appeals to keep them alive.

The truth of the matter is that our justice system would rather let a guilty man or woman go free than kill an innocent person. However, if it gets to the point where a person finds themselves on death row after a fair and speedy trial, chances are, they are guilty and do deserve to die. Our justice system makes it far too easy for guilty people to quite literally “get away with murder.”

The solution to this death row problem is not to eradicate the death penalty, rather it is to enforce the penalty in a speedy and efficient manner. These convicts are just a waste of space and money. Nobody on death row has actually been killed in California since 2006, and Texas, the state that executes the most convicts, only kills around 12 people each year, and still has a death row population of around 1,070 inmates.

Aside from all of these numbers and statistics, the death penalty is essentially a moral issue. Just recently, three women escaped from captivity in an Ohio home after suffering emotional, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their kidnapper for 10 long years. If 53-year-old Ariel Castro, who kidnapped these young women and inflicted upon them the most perverse and horrible atrocities that can be committed by human beings, does not deserve to removed from this world immediately, then I do not know who does.

It’s fairly easy for people to say “Oh, life in jail will teach them; the death penalty is just too harsh,” but we often forget to stop and think about the victims and their families. If it was your sister or brother who had been kidnapped or killed by some evil and twisted person, wouldn’t you be the first in line to see the perpetrator get the death penalty? Not because you desire violence, rather because there are just some things in this life that should never happen to good people, especially if it is a loved one.

Human beings are unique in the ways in which we build and foster relationships and we are also blessed, as well as cursed, with the capability to love others. It is a blessing to love, because at the end of the day, love is the only shared human experience that makes life worth living. But love is also a curse when it is metaphorically ripped from our hearts, whether that be because of a broken relationship or because someone unfairly stole it from our grasp. Love can make people do crazy things, but the craziest act of all would be to turn our backs on the victims of rape, murder and abuse and allow their culprits to continue breathing. In reality, the death penalty isn’t inhumane; it saves our society from becoming infected with the plague of moral and social injustices contracted by the most inhumane humans.