Capital punishment, more commonly referred to as the death penalty, has been a highly debated topic in our country for quite some time. In 1972, the Supreme Court case, Furman V. Georgia deemed the death penalty unconstitutional in a 5-4 ruling (“Death Penalty”). After that, capital punishment stopped being used. However, the ruling was short lived. Gregg V. Georgia was a Supreme Court case in 1976 that reinstated the use of the death penalty (“Death Penalty”). As it is surrounded by controversy, many citizens debate if the death penalty should be legal in the United States.
The death penalty should be illegal in all 50 states because: it is unconstitutional; criminals get special treatment; and innocent people may be wrongly executed. The first reason the death penalty should be illegal is because it is unconstitutional. In the Constitution, the Founding Fathers stated every person has inalienable rights. The Constitution grants humans the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The dictionary defines inalienable as “impossible to take away or give up. ” Meaning, the government has no right to take those freedoms away from us.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Beyer believes the death penalty has many defects that make it unconstitutional. He believes, “The death penalty is unreliable, it is arbitrary and there are delays that undermine the purpose. ” (Heyns). On another note, using the lethal injection can be very inhumane, which is why many believe capital punishment is unconstitutional. One author sheds light on how gruesome lethal injection can be, “In 2014 the lethal injection took 40 minutes to kill Oklahoma inmate Clayton Derrell. ” (Heyns).
Many countries have outlawed the use of capital punishment. Among countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran; America is one of the top five countries using capital punishment” (Heyns). Ranking among some of the most volatile countries in the world should not be a rating America wants. Thankfully, the rate of execution in the United States has gone down, “There were 25 executions in 2014 compared to 98 in 1999. ” (Heyns). Also, “Since 2007 seven states have abolished capital punishment. ” (Heyns). Contrary to this viewpoint, some people believe the death penalty is constitutional because it is punishment for a crime.
However, according to the eighth amendment of the Constitution, it is unlawful to use cruel and unjust punishment. Most of society would agree executing someone is an extremely cruel punishment. Another reason many humans are against the death penalty is because criminals on death row receive better treatment than regular prisoners. Inmates on death row, eat their meals in private and may spend two hours in the yard per day. They may have three “non-contact” visits each week (Dee). Some believe spending life in prison is worse than the death penalty because death is a way out.
Many criminals on death row have never faced execution because their case is constantly reopened for further investigation. The majority of prisoners on death row will die in prison. “13 out of the 900 people sentenced to death since 1978 have been executed. ” (Wolf). Which means, Americans spend money to keep these prisoners on death row but they never face the punishment given to them. Moreover, there is not any sufficient proof that the use of capital punishment deters criminals from committing homicide.
In fact, some believe using capital punishment shows that life has no importance. Executing someone for murder mirrors using physical violence against a victim. ” (Death Penalty). Others may believe the death penalty is the harshest form of punishment. But, isn’t death an escape? Criminals should have to spend their life locked away reflecting on what they have done. The strongest argument against capital punishment is innocence. Executing the innocent is a horrendous mistake that will never change. Many people are wrongfully accused and do not have enough money to afford a good lawyer.
Even if an innocent man becomes exonerated from prison, his entire life is gone. One innocent man shares his experience of being locked away, “Being on death row has taken so much from me as a human being… I spent 30 years on death row for something I did not do. ” (Wolf). Many people have had their entire lives stolen from being imprisoned. 152 prisoners have been exonerated since 1973, meaning 152 people were locked away, later to be found innocent. “The 12 men exonerated in 2014 served an average of 27 years in prison. ” (Wolf).
Many are not aware that innocent men and women are sentenced to death, however, this fact may be shocking to some people. “4% of prisoners sentenced to death are innocent. ” (Wolf). 4% may not seem significant, but when it is a matter of life or death, it can be a detrimental number. The death penalty should no longer be used as a punishment because; it is unconstitutional, death row inmates receive better treatment; and the innocent could be wrongfully executed. Capital punishment is a cruel and barbaric way to stop crime.
Most kids have heard the expression “do not fight fire with fire. ” Using the death penalty is doing just that. Punishing criminals for murder by doing exactly what landed them in jail in the first place seems counterproductive. Instead, making felons live in prison, reflecting on their actions, gives them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. No one would be able to live with themselves if they were involved with an innocent man being wrongfully executed. Eliminating capital punishment would make that fear nonexistent.