When I first became interested in politics I was an avid supporter of the death penalty. I believed an eye for an eye. I thought that only the most heinous crimes put the death penalty on the table. I also had the assumption that execution would save taxpayers more money than life in prison. After watching quite a few documentaries and reading a ton of articles I have changed my mind. I am now 100% against the death penalty.
In my opinion, the death penalty is the ultimate form of big government. Conservatives claim to be the biggest skeptics of government and government programs, yet we think it is a good idea to entrust government with the power over life and death? Corruption and incompetence are words often used to describe government on both sides of the spectrum. Why are we okay with putting people’s lives in the hands of the government, something us conservatives claim should be small are restricted? I don’t expect anyone to change their opinion on the death penalty because of my own opinion. So, here are a few facts to support my belief that the death penalty needs to be abolished.
First and foremost, death penalty supporters try to claim the moral high ground by claiming that the death penalty deters crime. Scientific studies have consistently failed to demonstrate that executions deter people from committing crime. The South accounts for more than 80% of US executions and has the highest regional murder rate in the country.
Not only does it not deter crime, but the vast majority of countries in Western Europe, North America and South America — more than 140 nations worldwide — have abandoned capital punishment in law or in practice. The United States remains in the same company as Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and China as one of the major advocates and users of capital punishment. I don’t know about you, but I definitely do not want to be compared to those countries.
Another argument that pro-death penalty people use is that it is cheaper than life in prison. This is not true. It costs far more to execute a person than to keep him or her in prison for life. Death penalty cases are expensive because sentencing someone to death requires two trials. The first trial determines the accused person’s guilt or innocence, while the second trial determines if the convicted individual “deserves” life in prison or death. A 2011 study found that California has spent more than $4 billion on capital punishment since it was reinstated in 1978 and that death penalty trials are 20 times more expensive than trials seeking a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.
Another HUGE issue I have with the death penalty is WHO receives it. Capital punishment is NOT foolproof.Innocent people have been put to death in the past and will be put to death in the future. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty, dozens of innocent men and women have been exonerated and released from Death Row. Another issue with the death penalty is the fact that race plays a huge part in who lives and who dies. Even though blacks and whites are murder victims in nearly equal numbers of crimes, 80% of people executed since the death penalty was reinstated have been executed for murders involving white victims. Death Penalty Info has compiled an entire section of their website dedication to studies that have shown correlations between race and who receives the death penalty.
The death penalty is also applied at random. Two people can commit nearly identical crimes and one can receive the death penalty and the other could receive life in prison without parole. The death penalty is basically a lottery that you do not want to win. Out of the 22,000 homicides committed each year, approximately 100 people or less are sentenced to death. Perhaps the most important factor in determining whether a defendant will receive the death penalty is the quality of the representation he or she is provided. Many defendants in capital murder cases cannot afford an attorney. This means they are appointed an attorney by the court. This attorney may not have prior experience in death penalty cases.
Life without parole is a very sensible alternative to the death penalty. This leaves room for mistakes to be corrected, and it helps save tax payers money. I have a very personal reason why I oppose the death penalty as well. On September 13, 2010, a young woman I knew for most of my life named Nicole Ayres was brutally murdered. A 30-year-old man, who doesn’t deserve name recognition, stabbed her dozens of times in her face and neck and left her body in a soccer field in New Jersey. When I first heard this new I wished that New Jersey still had the death penalty because someone as evil as he is doesn’t deserve to go on another day while Nicole, an innocent young woman, was taken from her friends and family.
The man pled guilty, and because of this he saved the state a trial and was rewarded with only 50 years in prison without parole. For the next 50 years he is going to sit in his cold, depressing cell and think about what he did. He will never fall in love. He will never know what is like to get married. He will never have anyone call him “dad.” He will never get a chance to hug his mother again. The only contact he has with the outside world is during visitation through a glass. For the next 50 years he will sit inside his plain prison cell staring at the same wall. When he lays on his hard and uncomfortable bed at night he will close his eyes and he will see Nicole’s face and he will feel regret, guilt, and sorrow. If he ever does get released from prison he will be 80 years old. He will have spent more of his life in prison than he did in the outside world. To me, putting him to death would have been the easy way out. Instead, he will suffer for 5 decades while the world goes on without him. That punishment is much worse.
*The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the FFL organization.*