Whether the death penalty should be legal in the United States or not is a major controversy. People have gone back and forth weighing the pros and cons to each side. One of the questions many people ask is, “Why do we kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong? ” (Drehle, 2015, pg. 6). The death penalty should be illegal because life in prison is a worse punishment and easier on families, it uses up more time and money, people are wrongfully accused sometimes, and lethal injection does not always result in an immediate death. The death penalty should be outlawed because life in prison is worse than death.
The life of a prisoner in one Supermax prison in Colorado consists of 23 hours a day in a cell with almost no communication with other prisoners or the outside world (Holloway, 2015). To reiterate this statement, David Zink, who was minutes away from execution, stated, “For those who remain on death row, understand that everyone is going to die. … Statistically speaking, we have a much easier death than most, so I encourage you to embrace it and celebrate our true liberation before society figures it out and condemns us to life without parole and we too will die a lingering death” (Holloway, 2015, pg. -2).
Life would be extremely boring and miserable if a person had almost no interactions with anybody and little to occupy their time in a cell for decades. However, 61% of Americans believe that capital punishment is morally acceptable, and only 30% disagreed with them (Muhlhausen, 2014). People want criminals who commit capital crimes to be erased so that they can never have even the most remote possibility of escape and will no longer cause society to worry. Also, some believe that prison just gives criminals a “license to kill,” because so many inmates are murdered every year.
One article, Death Penalty Repeal: It’s Necessary to use Capital Punishment in a Free World, stated that the prison homicides increased by 44% in 2012 (Gibson, 2013). People believe that this is unacceptable and the death penalty is the solution to the problem. A study by Paul Zimmerman, a Federal Communications Commission economist, reviewed the murder rates from 1978 to 1997 from all over the United States, and found that each execution resulted in about 14 fewer murders annually (Muhlhausen, 2014).
On the other hand, life in prison is also a deterrent to murders, and maybe even worse than death. Also, life imprisonment can result in rehabilitation, but death is final, no going back (McElwee, 2013). Even the fear of escape is eliminated by life in prison, because supermax prisons are so secure (McElwee, 2013). At one point, executions were necessary to keep criminals off the streets, but that fear is no longer logical (Drehle, 2015). The reality that escape is no longer a rational fear has made life in prison seem like the better punishment.
One argument for continuing the use of the death penalty is that it is easier on families. The idea is that families would get retribution for the death of their loved one if his/her offender was put to death, and they would also not have to live with the fact that the offender is still living on earth (Gibson, 2013). However, the families will not receive their retribution for 25 years, the average time it takes for an execution to actually take place (Holloway, 2015). Having to wait that many years would be painful on families, whereas a life in prison sentence is an mmediate punishment and brings closure to the families of victims. If 25 years is the average wait to be executed, some family members may pass away before they are able to see their loved one’s death finally be avenged. Life in prison would be a much easier sentence for families than execution.
Not only is life in prison a worse punishment for criminals, it is also more cost effective and saves time. The death penalty should be outlawed because it costs so much extra time and money than life in prison. Capital punishment costs about 3. million dollars versus the 150 thousand it costs for life in prison, also, courtroom resources are needed for about a thousand more days than life in prison because of all of the judges, public defenders, prosecutors, court reporters, bailiffs, jurors, and others that are needed for a trial (Holloway, 2015). Philip J. Cook, a Duke University professor, studied North Carolina’s execution systems and came to the conclusion that the state would save about 11 million dollars per year if they did not have the death penalty legalized, which means that California could save about 200 million a year (Drehle, 2015).
One federal commission study found that the death penalty costs about eight times more than the death penalty (Drehle, 2015). As David J. Burge, leader of the Georgia Republican Party, states it, “The reality is that capital punishment is nothing more than an expensive, wasteful and risky government program” (Drehle, 2015, pg. 2). The government spends a ton of money on the death penalty when they could be using it on other things, such as road construction or paying off the country’s debt. Once a person receives a death sentence, they usually are forced to wait at least a decade before they are executed.
In California, about half of the 750 inmates on death row have not even begun their appeals because the state’s bureaucracy is underfunded and cannot afford to give them a lawyer (Drehle, 2015). Some believe that this counts as cruel and unusual punishment because the criminals have to wait to receive their punishment, and their Miranda Rights are not being provided. The death penalty costs way too much time and money to be considered reasonable, and it can also be used to punish innocent people by mistake.
The death penalty should be outlawed because many people have been wrongfully accused for crimes they did not commit. Since 1973, 154 death row cases have been exonerated, and one study found that more than four percent of inmates on death row in the United States are most likely innocent (Holloway, 2015). For example, Wiley Bridgeman from Ohio was released after spending 39 years on death row because the key witness in the trial, who was twelve at the time, admitted he made up his story to aid the police (Drehle, 2015). Imagine how many people have been executed for crimes they had nothing to do with.
Sadly, people have been executed when they were actually innocent, for example, two men in North Carolina had been sentenced to death when they were teenagers, and exonerated thirty years later when DNA evidence proved they were innocent, unfortunately, one man, Cameron Todd Willingham, had already been executed earlier that year before he could be released (Drehle, 2015). Many people have been wrongfully accused and some even executed for something they did not do. Death is final and there is no going back, so the death penalty should not be used anymore. The death penalty should be outlawed because we are not getting better at it.
To accentuate this statement, the death penalty is also not always a quick and easy death, sometimes it can take hours for a person to die from lethal injection. Even some pharmaceutical companies refused to sell their drugs when they were going to be used for capital punishment because of stories about executions gone wrong (Drehle, 2015). In one instance, prison officials needed almost two hours to execute Joseph Wood, another example is when it took 40 minutes of attempting to execute Clayton Lockett before he finally died of a heart attack (Drehle, 2015).
Maybe a firing squad would be more efficient, however, the problem is that it sheds blood, which would be inhumane. The death penalty should not be legal because it is not as bad a punishment as life in prison, it is harder on families, it costs more time and money, sometimes people are wrongfully accused, and it can take a long time for the lethal injection to work. Even though the facts are there, the death penalty will continue to be debated. Only time will tell if capital punishment will finally be deemed illegal.