Is The Death Penalty Effective? Essay

The discussion about the death penalty is one that has been controversial for as long as the justice system has been in place. There are real concerns regarding the validity and effectiveness of such a punishment in the prevention of crimes due to the fact that the taking of the criminal's life should in most cases, also be considered a crime since it violates that very person's right to life. Aside from the obvious “legalized” violation of a human being's right to live out his full life cycle, the death penalty should also be looked at from an economic standpoint when deciding as to whether it is an effective crime deterrent or not. Through this essay, I plan to present evidence and information from various professional sources, articles, and data gathering services that prove beyond a reasonable doubt, that the death penalty is not an effective crime deterrent. Rather, it is an economic drain for most of the states in our country that continue to use it as their severest form of criminal punishment. It also provides an emotional and psychological release for the criminal who suffers the most in death row.

We all have a right to life. We all have the right to change the way of life that we chose to lead in the past. Nobody ever wants to willingly live a life of crime. Some people, or most hardened criminals like Charles Manson, prove to have psychological shortcomings that have driven them into such a horrific lifestyle. With that kind of information on hand for anyone to see and read about, one can only come to the conclusion that the death penalty is a punishment that is outmoded and irrelevant when dealing with criminals. Rather than killing these people, prisons should make more effective use of their criminal rehabilitation programs instead. Opting to keep the most dangerous criminals under lock and key for the rest of their lives without a chance of getting a parole rather than trying to right a crime with another crime.

Let's call a spade a spade in this case. The death penalty has never been an effective crime deterrent. The states that implement them such as Florida, California, and Texas still have high crime rates with murder rates still on the rise. These aforementioned states have seen a reduction in their police force and a trimming down of their prison budgets all because the state budget cannot afford to keep the law enforcement team on the payroll the way they need to be. But, and this is what boggles the minds of most thinking people who live in these states, the fact remains that these very same states manage to spend millions of dollars of the state budget in implementing death penalty actions. Case in point:

Before the Los Angeles riots, for example, California had little money for innovations like community policing, but was managing to spend an extra $90 million per year on capital punishment. Texas, with over 300 people on death row, is spending an estimated $2.3 million per case, but its murder rate remains one of the highest in the country. (Dieter, Richard “What Politicians Don't Say About the High Costs of the Death Penalty”)

Keeping the above costing in mind, it is sufficient enough to say that Capital Punishment as we know it is actually making America a dangerous place to live in. When a country, or a state for that matter, pours out so much of its budget on the death penalty while their crime prevention measures and law enforcers suffer with meager budgets or a slash of employed police officers, one can only deduce that something is very wrong with the way people of the state view their safety concerns and strategies.

Why do some states continue to enforce the death penalty when it has a f cheaper alternative? By placing a criminal in prison for life, without parole. we prevent the clogging of our judicial system with motion after motion for reconsideration on behalf of the sentenced death row convict. Capital punishment trials are one of the most costly trials that can be had by any accused most specially since there is a huge possibility that the death sentence may actually be converted to a life sentence in the future if a retrial is granted.

In 2010, a man by the name of Ronnie Lee Gardner found himself being put to death, 25 years after his sentence was handed down. The man spent more than half his life in prison, trying to find a way to get his sentence overturned. State finances were exhausted as his lawyers went through a never ending round of appeals, reviews, and other legal rigmarole before they finally exhausted all efforts to save the man's life.

The suffering that Mr. Gardner had to endure should be considered a miscarriage of justice. It proves that the death penalty does not deter crime because the criminal has already been put behind bars in the first place. The option of life without parole would have been a better use of state resources at that point. This particular case proves that the death penalty makes for inhumane treatment in most cases since:

… it's a travesty that judges and juries are able to sentence defendants to die, yet the state is unable to carry those sentences out in a timely manner. If the death penalty is merely an empty threat, it's no longer a deterrent, nor is it humane. (Julie Marsh “Is the Death Penalty Effective or Merely an Empty Threat?”)

The death row inmates live a life more horrific than if they have been executed themselves. When it takes 25 years for a sentence to be carried out, the criminal will have long been suffering the mental and emotional effects of his sentence as he awaits his fate. It has such a severe psychological effect on the criminal that by the time his execution finally comes around, he actually wants to die. Then the death penalty does not become a deterrent but rather a blessing for the person awaiting execution (Julie Marsh “Is the Death Penalty Effective or Merely an Empty Threat?”).

As I delved further into the research of this topic, I came across a startling discovery. That the death penalty is being used politically as a form of posturing by politicians who want to seem tough on crime but don't really have a clue as to how to fix the crime problem. They support the death penalty not because they truly believe it works, but rather because it has always been the default answer to the question “How can we get tougher on crime?” According to information gathered in 2008 by the Death Penalty Information Center:

Nearly 78% of those surveyed said that having the death penalty in a state does not lower the murder rate. In addition, 91% of respondents said politicians support the death penalty in order to appear tough on crime – and 75% said that it distracts legislatures on the state and national level from focusing on real solutions to crime problems. Over all, 94% agreed that there was little emperical evidence to support the deterrent effect of the death penalty. And 90% said the death penalty had little effect overall on the committing of murder. Additionally, 91.6% said that increasing the frequency of executions would not add a deterrent effect, and 87.6% said that speeding up executions wouldn't work either. (Death Penalty Information Center “Study: 88% of Criminologists do not Believe the Death Penalty is an Effective Crime Deterrent”)

The reality is that even the leading American criminologists are in agreement that the Death Penalty is not an effective crime deterrent when compared to the threat of life long imprisonment (Radelet & Lacock “Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates?: The View of Leading Criminologists). There have been no results in their empirical studies done throughout the decades that ever proved that the death penalty managed to deter the commission of a heinous crime in the real world. It does not scare the criminals because they all believe that they cannot be caught by law enforcement and therefore, can escape the death penalty.

Granted that our judicial system is set up in such a way that a person's rights as the accused are heavily guarded and protected, that still does not erase the fact that a crime was committed and an innocent life was taken. That is the argument that Pro Death Penalty supporters use to further gain sympathy for their cause. Theirs is the belief in the Law of Moses, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” They further argue that if a criminal is paroled the criminal is given another chance to commit a more serious offense. More importantly, they have this mistaken belief that seeing the person who took the life of their loved one lose his own life can provide them with closure. Nothing can be further from the truth because the loss of another life, the criminal's life, will not bring back the lost life of their loved one. (Messerli, Joe “Should the Death Penalty be Banned as a Form of Punishment”). Although they give seemingly acceptable and logical arguments for their cause, the problem, is that they are opting to undertake an action that makes them no better than the person who perpetrated the crime upon their loved one in the first place. He has the blood of their loved on on his hands, it does not seem logical nor justifiable to want to have your own innocent hands stained with his blood. It is a type of revenge that does not bring anything good to either parties. Instead, it creates two crimes. One is a death that is punishable by law and the other, is legalized murder with the state supporting the act.

At present, Connecticut is the 17th state to have repealed its Death Penalty Law. The law was successfully repealed with the support of Governor Dannel P. Malloy using an economic and moral basis for the axing of the inhuman law. By repealing the law, the state of Connecticut is sending a clear message to the states that still support the death penalty:

The bill sends the message that killing to prove killing is wrong is much like cleaning up water with water. While the initial problem is not made worse, nothing is done to really clean up the mess (Faipler, Danielle “Column – Death Penalty May not be as Effective as Life in Prison).

Let us be clear about one thing. Our judiciary system was put into place to act as judge and jury, it should never have been meant to act as executioner as well. We have a prison system that is meant to rehabilitate the criminals and reform them. To make them viable members of society once again. Sure the death penalty seems the best way to deal with the criminals who are in and out of the system for increasingly heinous offenses. But they are human beings too and they need to be allowed enough time to reform themselves. That does not mean that they should be released into the very society they offended until they are ready to become productive members of it.

Prisons were meant to serve as the separation point between good and evil in society. It is a limited world where the inmates face the reality that they could die in the place they are being held even without their being sentenced to death. They are separated from their own loved ones and live the nightmare life of a prison inmate. Once sentenced to life in prison, they are committed to a fate worse than death for they shall never see the outside world again nor enjoy the freedom that they once enjoyed as a member of society. They become psychologically incapacitated and a member of what can best be termed as “the living dead” for they have no future ahead of them anymore.

Criminals sentenced to death suffer the same psychological inacapacity as those life termers. But with a marked difference. The suffering for those on death row is sure to come to an end. Thus giving them a release from their inner demons. Why should they be given a way out of their suffering when the relatives of those whom they killed will continue for the rest of their lives? No, the death penalty is too good for their like, life in prison is the best way to punish their sort.

Considering all the evidence presented, the death penalty definitely proves to be ill-effective and even serves as a welcome exit to those who should be suffering the rest of their lives for the crimes they have committed against society.

Works Cited

Dieter, Richard. “What Politicians Don't Say About the High Costs of the Death Penalty”. n.d. Web. 11 Apr. 2012.

Faipler, Danielle. “Column – Death Penalty May Not be as Effective as Life in Prison”. Opinion. (The Daily Atheneum).10 Apr. 2012. Web. 14 Apr. 2012.

Marsh, Julie. “Is the Death Penalty Effective or Merely an Empty Threat?”. Technology Op-Ed. The Stir. 21 Jun. 2012. Web. 15 Apr. 2012.

Messerli, Joe. “Should the Death Penalty be Banned as a Form of Punishment?”. n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2012.

Radelet, Michael & Lacock, Traci. “Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates?: The Views of Leading Criminologists”. The Journal of Law and Criminology. 9.2 (2008). n.pag. Web. 13 Apr. 2012.

“Study: 88% of Criminologists do not Believe the Death Penalty is an Effective

Deterrent “. DPIC. Death Penalty Information Center. 2012. Web. 12 Apr. 2012