capital punishment insightful perspective

Death is inevitable.  No matter how difficult it may be to admit, every living creature must eventually die.  People die for many reasons ranging from old age to sickness, murders, and accidents.  Most people wish to live for as long as their body is capable of living, but occasionally, a life is cut short.  One reason this may happen is if one is sentenced to die as punishment for a crime.  capital punishment has its good sides and its bad sides, but it must be repealed

The death penalty may seem a financial necessity if it is considered that the current economic recession has made it difficult to afford keeping prisoners in prison.  In Florida, 3,000 prisoners have been released early, and an appalling number of prisoners in Texas have been allowed to go free after serving only 20% of their sentence because the state could no longer afford to keep them in prison (Dieter).  In light of this, it may seem that carrying out death sentences would bring financial relief, but that is not so.Exhaustive trials and litigation are routine in cases concerning a capitol crime, and these legal processes tend to rack up a very large bill.  Many states, including Florida and Texas,spend millions of dollars on the death penalty at the same time that they are dismissing police officers and laying off correctional personnel due to lack of funds (Dieter).  A study conducted in 1992 found the average cost of an execution in Texas to be $2,300,000.00.

It was also mentioned that this is about three times as much as it would cost to give the same prisoner a single occupancy, top security cell for 40 years (Hoppe A1).  A study done in Florida in 1988 showed that each execution rendered was costing the state anaverage of $3,200,000.00 (Von Drehle A12).  When the facts are added up, it becomes clear that capital punishment cannot save the state any money.  In fact, it would seem that the state could save a great deal by finding alternatives to the death penalty and abolishing capital punishment.  capital punishment is a luxury that is simply unaffordable.

Some may feel the need for capital punishment because they fear that anything less is not punishment enough, or that a prisoner may be granted parole and recommit a crime.  But special consideration must be taken when dealing with the death penalty because it is probably the only criminal sentence that is completely irreversible and irreparable.  If an alleged murderer is sentenced to death, executed, and then is proven undoubtedly not guilty, nothing can be done to make up for such an affliction.  However,if the same person were given a life sentence, the years that they lost in prison could not be returned to them, but they could still live the remainder of their life, unlike if they were executed.  The only way to be certain that innocent people will not be executed by the government is to develop an unerring justice system, but it is impossible to develop a system that is fool-proof.  Misinterpretation of evidence, false testimony, mistaken identification, and racial and socioeconomic prejudices are capable of effecting the verdict or sentence (Innocence).  These are issues that will not be resolved no matter how seemingly perfect a justice system may seem.  A recent investigation shows that,between 1900 and 1991, over 400 people on death row were proven not guilty of the crime for which they were originally given the death sentence (Innocence).  The thought of risking even one innocent life is hideous, but the fact that more than 400 innocent people were given the death sentence is intolerable.  The death sentence should be put aside until evidence is given as to the infallibility of human reasoning.

Eradicating the death penalty would also help the U.S. to promote serenity in foreign politics.  Many countries have annulled capital punishment, but anti-death-penalty groups are still active in these countries.  For instance, ACAT is established in France (ACAT), and the European Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has been established by Germany, England, Netherlands, and Norway (ECADP).  Both of these organizations are anti-death-penalty and are still very active, but both are established in countries which haven’t used capital punishment in years or even decades(Abolitionist).  If this is so, why are these organizations still active?  The answer is addressed in their websites.  Ones which, it may be noticed, do not focus on issues which transpire locally, but those occurring abroad (ACAT)(ECADP).  Both of their websites happen to have a particularly strong focus on the United States.  These organizations want very much for the United States to abolish the death penalty for all crimes, and these organizations are not alone by any means.  Scores of similar organizations established around the world oppose the death penalty in the United States and elsewhere (More).  If the United States were to revoke capital punishment, such an action would likely be approved of by many countries, resulting in a higher level of support for the United States as a country.  If the United States insists on retaining the death penalty, a chance is taken that the country will be confronted by countries opposing capital punishment.  But why do they care whether or not the United States uses capital punishment?  Hugo Adam Bedau put it best into perspective when he said,“Conspicuous by their indifference to these recommendations are nations generally known for their disregard for the human rights of their citizens: China, Iraq, Iran, SouthAfrica, and the former Soviet Union.  Americans ought to be embarrassed to find themselves linked with the governments of such nations in retaining execution as a method of crime control” (Bedau).  By standing up for capital punishment, the United States puts its self at odds with the larger half of the world.  After all, 109 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice, while only 86 countries still put it to practice (Abolitionist).  The bottom line is that the United States would be in better over-all political standing if it were to do away with capital punishment.


One of the oldest, most frequented, and most valid protests faced by capital punishment is its inhumane and barbaric nature.  Perhaps execution methods have come a long way from stoning, impaling, and medieval torture chambers, but still, no methods of administering death have been developed which do not present the risk of rendering viciously torrential pain along with the intended death.  One of the first methods of execution to be used in the United States is hanging, and it is still authorized for use in Delaware, New Hampshire, and Washington state (Sandholzer).  This method should not be used at all because it is so easy to do improperly.  If the person to be executed is not dropped from high enough above the hanging point, their spinal cord will not snap, which is the way it is intended to kill.  Instead, they will suffer a slow, agonizing death through strangulation (Sandholzer).  However, if the person to be executed is dropped from too great a height, their head will be torn from their neck once they reach the hanging point (Sandholzer).  Another very old method of execution is by firing squad.  This method is currently authorized for use in Idaho, Oklahoma, and Utah (Sandholzer).  This method is not as bad as hanging, but it is still capable of mangling the body, and if the bullets do not hit vital organs, the victim is likely to suffer a slow death.  Since the inception of thesemethods of execution, people have been trying to find new methods of execution which would be more humane.  One of these so-called improvements is the gas chamber.  This method is approved for use in Arizona, California, Maryland, Missouri, and Wyoming(Sandholzer).  In this procedure, the victim is sealed in a chamber with hydrocyanic gas which disables blood hemoglobin (Sandholzer).  This is one of the slowest methods of execution, usually lasting between six and eighteen minutes.  While intended to be an improvement on execution, this is one of the least humane methods available.  It is almost like having to breathe through a straw that gets smaller and smaller until no air is allowed through at all.  Although breathing is easy in the gas chamber, the feeling of suffocation is still prevalent (Sandholzer).  Electrocution was the next so-called improvement to be made on execution after the gas chamber and is currently authorizedin 11 states.  This method is presumably very painful and does not kill the victim for several minutes.  In some cases, it has taken as long as thirty minutes to kill the victim.No depiction of the terrible effects of death by electrocution has been given that is so accurate, and yet so concise as when Kuno Sandholzer said, “Electrocution produces visibly destructive effects as the body’s internal organs are burned; the prisoner often leaps forward against the restraining straps when the switch is thrown. The body changes color, the flesh swells and may even catch fire. The prisoner may defecate, urinate or vomit blood. Witnesses always report that there is a smell of burning flesh” (Sandholzer).Modern science has yet another method of execution which it truly seems to believe is an improvement.  It is known as lethal injection and is authorized in 35 states and is also used by the United States government and the United States Military.  In this method, the condemned is administered three intravenous drugs.  Sodium thiopental induces nconsciousness, pancuronium bromide stops respiration, and potassium chloride stops heartbeat (Sandholzer).  Lethal injection is believed to be the most humane method of execution currently available, but no available evidence shows that it is painless, or that itcarries no risk of suffering.  As Hugo Adam Bedau put it, “… [There is] substantial and uncontroverted evidence … that execution by lethal injection poses a serious risk of cruel,protracted death…. Even a slight error in dosage or administration can leave a prisoner conscious but paralyzed while dying, a sentient witness of his or her own asphyxiation”(Bedau).  Each method of execution authorized in the United States clearly poses a risk of what may be constituted as cruel and unusual punishment.  Why, then, is it allowed in a country who says that it does not allow cruel and unusual punishment?  No one who believes that cruel and unusual punishment does not belong in America can rightfully say that the death penalty has a place in the land of the free.

Regardless of financial, political, or moral dispositions, it cannot be ignored that capital punishment does not deter violent crime.  After all, what purpose do punishments serve?  Most people would probably say that punishments are rendered to convey disapproval of an action and to prevent it from recurring.  In the case of capital punishment, disapproval is definitely conveyed, but how does it prevent recurrences? Does it, in fact, prevent recurrences?  If the proper facts and statistics are considered, it should be obvious that the death penalty is entirely ineffectual.  Between 1968 and 1976, no executions were carried out in the United States (Spence 100).  The average murder rate per 100,000 people during that time was about 8.59 (Homicide).  However, between 1986 and 1994, there were 207 executions in the United States (Bureau) and the murder rate per 100,000 people was 9.00 (Homicide).  This means that over a nine year period when 207 executions were administered, the murder rate was just barely higher than during a nine year period when no executions were administered at all.  Based on this evidence, it would seem that capital punishment has no effect on the murder rate.  If a correlation had to be made, it would indicate that the death penalty actually incites murder.  But why is the death penalty so ineffective?  To someone thinking rationally, it would make sense that the threat of a future execution would hinder murderous thoughts in a potential murderer.  Amnesty International once made a solid rebuttal to this mode of thinking when one of their editors said, “People who murder, however, are rarely rational at the time they commit the crime. The threat of execution at some future date does not enter the minds of killers acting under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, in the grip of fear or rage, panicking while committing another crime, or simply lacking an understanding of the gravity of their crime. Hired killers obviously assume they will not be apprehended” (Deterrence).  When thinking calmly and rationally, most people would feel the threat of the death penalty steering them away from murder, even if nothing else does, but in the haze of passionate rage or of a drunken stupor, most people do not have the ability to weigh the consequences of their actions properly before acting upon an urge.  In fact, no credible studies have been conducted which conclude with evidence that capital punishment bares any crime deterring value whatsoever (Deterrence).Assuming that deterrence of future violent crimes is the goal kept in mind when utilizing the death penalty, it seems absurd to keep the death penalty instated when such a great amount of evidence is available to show that it, in fact, does not deter crime.

Capital punishment may seem reasonable and advantageous at first glance, but upon closer inspection, it is evident that the disadvantages of the death penalty far outweigh any possible gains that could be obtained from it.  capital punishment cannot be justified when it puts innocent people at risk of dying, especially considering that the death they are likely to face will not be a pleasant one.  In fact, it may be so torrential that even if they did commit the crimes they were convicted for, they would not rightly deserve such a death.  It also seems strange that the death penalty has not been abolished in the United States even though it would gain so much global praise and save the country so much money.  It also seems remarkably foolish to keep the death penalty in effect when so much evidence is offered supporting the fact that the death penalty cannot accomplish its main goal: criminal deterrence.  Perhaps it is only kept around to please people like those who devote thirty-some years of their lives to hunting down surviving World War II Nazis so that they may be brought to trial and executed.  After all, it is ridiculous to think that the United States justice system can rehabilitate them now, if they have not already managed to do so on their own accord.  It is also unthinkable that anyone could be deterred from murdering because of such an example.  The only reasonable explanation for why anyone would hunt down World War II Nazis is the same reason that anyone would wish someone to receive the death sentence: revenge – the most worthless of all causes.  Perhaps capital punishment is only a link in a feedback loop of violence in a culture which is so consumed by it.  The government sets an example that killing is an acceptable way to deal with problems and people begin to accept it.  It is true that everyone must eventually die.  Death may come for a number of reasons, but there is no reason that the death penalty should be one of them.






4 December 2001.~~~~~~~~

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Christians for the Abolition of Torture]. Paris: 2001. Google. 1

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~mwood/deathpen.html#Trends. 7 December 2001.~~~~~~~~

Bureau of Justice Statistics – Number of persons executed in the United States,

1930-2000. 2001. Lycos. 7 December 2001.~~~~~~~~

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Dieter, Richard. What Politicians Don’t Say About the High Costs of the Death Penalty.

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ECADP – European Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Bocholt: 2001. www. br. 6 December 2001.~~~~~~~~

Homicide Trends in the U.S. 2001.

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Hoppe, C. “Executions Cost Texas Millions.” The Dallas Morning News. 8 March 1992:


Innocence. 2001. 5 December 2001.~~~~~~~~

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methods/index.html. 6 December 2001.~~~~~~~~

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