The Debate Over The Death Penalty

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At the core of the debate over the death penalty are differing moral and philosophical views regarding the value of human life. Nonetheless, the policy itself should still be informed by factual evidence. Historically speaking, until relatively recently, the government did not have any secure prisons in which violent criminals could be safely kept for long periods of time. Local state and county jails were only suitable for short durations of time. As such, when faced with prisoners who could not be set free for the public’s safety, there seemed to be little choice but to just kill them. Today, however, there exist supermax facilities where sentences can be served in relative safety. One federal prisoner escaped and was recaptured in 1999, out of a prison population of more than 115,000. He was the only one to escape in the past four years (Billingsley & Stephan, 2001). With the evolution of technology, security is no longer a primary issue when deciding whether or not to execute an individual. There is also a pressing economic question to consider: the cost of the death penalty. While it seems somewhat crass to measure something like human life in dollar amounts, it is still an indisputable fact that it is cheaper to imprison criminals for life than it is to execute them. While the cost of the execution alone is relatively small, the outside costs are significantly higher. Capital cases are more expensive and take longer to resolve than non-capital cases in general, due to costs of security, more comprehensive evidence processing, and often, extra lawyers. Prosecutors spend more times on the average death penalty appeal than they do on the average life sentence appeal, and housing death penalty prisons is more expensive than ho... ... middle of paper ... ...dvantaged from the start. A report by criminologist Ray Paternoster also found that African-Americans and Hispanic Americans are up to two and a half times as likely to receive the death penalty as white Americans (p. 7). Ultimately, the issue is not just the criminal’s penalty, but also the powers of the government as an authority. Should the government be given the right to kill its prisoners? Given that the legacy of bias in the American legal system is undeniable, one who stands against unjust punishment and inequality must respond in the negative. In a world where alternatives to the death penalty are superior in terms of practicality, economics, and ethics, it is apparent that there is only one logical solution: abolishment. Capital punishment is a well-intentioned but ultimately ineffective attempt to fix the problem of crime by ignoring and systematic bias.
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