When I was younger, I was a staunch proponent of the death penalty. It was justice being served in its purest form. If you killed someone else, or committed another type of heinous crime, then you were going to get what was coming to you: an eye for an eye. But that was when I was younger. Before I understood the intricacies of poverty, the fallibility of the criminal justice system, the true value of a human life and the irreversibility of ending it. That was when I saw things in black and white, and not in the overwhelming gray scale that more accurately depicts our world.
Now, as an adult, I passionately believe that capital punishment should be, needs to be, abolished. Today, there are over 140 countries that have done away with the death penalty–almost ⅔ of all of the countries across the globe. And yet our country, a world leader in many respects, continues to execute human beings at an alarming rate (1,446 people killed since 1977).
The death penalty is a horrendous symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it, and I implore you to consider the following factors when assessing capital punishment:
Innocent people die: Inherently, as humans (and subsequently as jury/judge), we are prone to making mistakes–we are not omniscient nor all-knowing. There is no redress once someone has been executed, no apology that can bring them back, no amount of money that can serve as restitution.
Human rights are denied: The Right to Life is at the core of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If we pick and choose which of these rights we will honor, how can we have any say or influence with other countries atrociously violating other stated rights?
Crime is not deterred: If capital punishment was an effective tool in deterring crime we would not see the random and sporadic fluctuation of both crime and/or the death penalty that we have seen throughout the last half of a century.
Discrimination runs rampant: The death penalty has been shown to be unequivocally discriminatory against not only race, but also socio-economic class. The percentages of minorities and/or those living in poverty who are sentenced to death are exponentially greater than their white, middle to upper socioeconomic status, counterparts.
Revenge isn’t as sweet as you would think: Studies have shown that despite the perception that executing an offender will help the victim’s family with closure (a sense of justice, etc.) the reality is far different. The majority of families studied reported not feeling the sense of relief or the “filling of the void” that they had expected to feel once the offender was killed.
If the death penalty is a symptom, the root cause is a culture that perpetuates and glorifies violence. It is the ultimate paradox to think that murder will prevent murder; that killing will lead to peace. Violence breeds violence. There has to be a better way. Look at the numbers, read the studies, educate yourselves on this fractured “justice” system.
And ask yourself–if we continue taking an eye for an eye, will we leave the whole world blind?