Opposing the death penalty

The Concordian Politics Blog

See this argument’s counterpoint here.

The death penalty is an ancient relic of an outdated criminal justice system, and it should be nationally eliminated. There are many reasons for this, including the economic, moral, and political.

To begin, one should consider the economics of the death penalty. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, “The average cost of defending a trial in a federal death case is $620,932, about 8 times that of a federal murder case in which the death penalty is not sought.” If California eliminated the death penalty today, it would save about $170 million dollars a year. In a time of pinched wallets across individuals and states, that money would be very useful right now.

One may be wondering about the alternatives to the death penalty: “Wouldn’t putting someone in prison for life cost more than executing them?” No, it would not—here’s why: Due to the legal and moral necessity of being absolutely sure of one’s guilt before lethally injecting them, the legal process for death penalty cases is much more expensive than a life without parole case. One may counter this by saying that the answer would be to shorten the legal process. However, America then loses precious accuracy in its system. Surely putting an innocent person to death is far worse than spending more money. When one pays attention to the American political system, a lot is said regarding fiscal responsibility. Eliminating the death penalty would be one of the most fiscally responsible decisions America could make. The benefits, however, do not extend only to the pocketbook.

Take a moment to consider what the death penalty is as an idea. It believes that pure hypocrisy within a justice system is an effective way to punish. The state believes that individuals should not kill (or commit other horrendous crimes), and to enforce this idea it insists on breaking the very moral code it espouses in the first place. Surely a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality is not the most effective when it comes to dealing with adults. When the death penalty is eliminated, America can finally realize it has developed its ideas on criminal justice beyond what Venezuela knew in 1863, when it abolished the death penalty. Russia has not executed anyone within its criminal justice system since 1996. America needs to leave this outdated idea behind. With the death penalty comes many common misconceptions regarding its use. One of the most common is the idea that the death penalty deters future criminals. Upon closer examination, however, one realizes this to be false.

Murders, and many other crimes, are very often crimes of passion, meaning that individuals who commit these crimes are not thinking rationally when they do so. Attempting to explain that the death penalty is deterring criminals is to attempt to say that rational actors commit the most horrendous crimes by first thinking through the consequences. It is applying a code of reason to individuals for which no code exists, a foolish and clearly costly mistake. If one needs further evidence of this, one simply can look at the murder rates for countries with death penalties and without, there is a convincing lack of correlation between executions and low murder rates.

When one takes all this information together the next step is clear: eliminate the death penalty. Doing so would remove America from the company of states such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, and Afghanistan—and place it into the 21st century. Getting rid of the archaic practice of capital punishment would save us money and morality, while not losing any deterrence. This is a win-win-win situation for America.



  1. Austin:

    The biggest problem in this debate, as with your article, is the lack of fact checking.

    Saving Costs with The Death Penalty

    “Killing Equals Killing: The Amoral Confusion of Death Penalty Opponents”

    The Innocents Frauds: Standard Anti Death Penalty Strategy

    A review of the debate
    99.7% of murderers tell us “Give me life, not execution”

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