By: Kaleb Folk/ Guest Writer
The death penalty has been imposed since the Eighteenth Century B.C. in the Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon and used as punishment in the U.S. since European settlers arrived in the New World. Those on death row in the U.S. have been put there for crimes such as murder, treason and hijacking. Around the 1960s, U.S. lawyers began challenging the punishment as “cruel and unusual punishment,” a violation of the protections of the Eighth Amendment. Methods of imposing the death penalty in the United States include lethal injection, electrocution, lethal gas, firing squad, and hanging–and when carried out do not always provide a quick and painless death. What’s more, the cost of seeking and carrying out the death penalty is actually much more expensive than non-death penalty cases. It is time to end the death penalty. It should be illegal because it is a cruel and unusual punishment; it costs too much money; it doesn’t always go as planned, and furthermore, life in prison is a worse punishment for the criminal than killing them.
If you look at our Constitution, it is stated in the Eighth Amendment that we forbid “cruel and unusual punishments.”
Steven Breyer, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court stated in Glossip v. Gross, “The Court has recognized that a ‘claim that punishment is excessive is judged not by the standards that prevailed in 1685… or when the Bill of Rights was adopted, but rather by those that currently prevail… Indeed, the Constitution prohibits various gruesome punishments” (JUSTIA U.S. Supreme Court).
Just as Breyer stated, the Constitution does not allow for the death penalty because it is a cruel and unusual punishment. Furthermore, statistics show that lethal injection, one of the most used execution methods, averages a 7% failure rate (deathpenaltyinfo.org). In these botched executions, the numbing injection wears off before injection of the actual poison, allowing the prisoner to feel excruciating pain, which in turn forces the executioner to stop the process in order to restart the process. Certainly, this is a cruel punishment.
From a financial standpoint, the death penalty is also extremely expensive and exhaustive of the court’s time. It costs two to five times more money to execute the death sentence rather than send prisoners to jail for the rest of their lives.
In an independent study for the Oklahoma Death Penalty Review Commission, posted on the Death Penalty Information website, deathpenaltyinfo.org, researchers found that “between 2000 and 2016, across the country, seeking the death penalty imposes an average of approximately $700,000 more in case-level costs than not seeking death.”
Tax payers cover the cost of judges, attorneys, court facilities and the other miscellaneous expenses in the effort to put someone on death row–a process that often takes 15-20 years. Instead, we should spend less money by just eliminating this punishment and sentencing the convicted to life in prison. Our taxpayer money could be better spent reducing other forms of crime and improving our society.
As the ACLU points out: “Capital punishment wastes limited resources. It squanders the time and energy of courts, prosecuting attorneys, defense counsel, juries, and courtroom and law enforcement personnel. It unduly burdens the criminal justice system, and it is thus counterproductive as an instrument for society’s control of violent crime. Limited funds that could be used to prevent and solve crime (and provide education and jobs) are spent on capital punishment.”
Logically, life imprisonment is a way more effective punishment and deterrent. As an unnamed writer points out on balancedpolitics.org, an executed criminal suffers for the time the execution takes, whereas life in prison causes him or her to suffer the consequences for, well, life.
Now, many people say that imposing the death penalty prevents the criminal from committing anymore heinous crimes. This is true, but taking such a stance is taking the easy way out. There is obviously no rehabilitative plan involved with an execution, whereas life imprisonment forces a criminal to dwell on his or her actions on a daily basis–and if he or she is in jail, he or she is not committing crimes against society.
The death penalty, overall, should not be allowed in our country. It is a cruel and unusual punishment, especially if it gets botched, and we spend way too much money on the death penalty process compared to the cost of life imprisonment. Also, life in prison is a worse punishment. So, I’m going to leave you with this, if your loved one was murdered, what would you rather let the murderer have the easy way out, or, life in prison?
Kaleb Folk is a junior at Blue Ridge High School where he is a member of the school’s baseball, basketball and soccer teams. In addition, Kaleb is the soon-to-be vice-president of his school’s National Honor Society and is an active member of the Blue Ridge Leo Club. Kaleb also assists with the Blue Ridge Basketball Club and the local youth baseball program. He plans to study business marketing after graduation and would like to attend Susquehanna University (where his brother attends).