“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
– Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
We live in a world that for a long time, has killed human beings for a crime they were appointed guilty for. When you think about it, it’s a strange concept. We do something unspeakably inhumane to someone who originally did something unspeakably inhumane themselves. Believe it or not, there is an overwhelming amount of countries, states and continents on our Earth, which still uphold the capital punishment today. The top 10 (in order) are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, United States, Pakistan, Yemen, North Korea, Vietnam, and Libya. Although some places do appoint the death penalty more than others. For example, a study done in 2012 shows that through 2007 – 2012, China had over 2000 executions while Libya had 39. The thought of a government purposely killing over 2000 people within the span of five years is quite shocking, criminal or not. Killing a human being, in general, is not a very humane thing, no matter what they’ve done or who they are. It has been proven that throughout centuries, the death penalty has done nothing but harm us as a society. It contains much too many flaws which make the procedures of execution much too unsafe, unfair, very costly and absolutely barbaric. There is no doubt that in 2017, the death penalty should be abolished worldwide.
Executions have been a way of criminal justice used in our society for a very long time. According to researchers, the beginning of the death penalty laws go as far back as the Eighteenth Century B.C, and the death penalty was an option for 25 different crimes. They used methods such as crucifixion, drowning, beating to death, burning alive, and impalement. The death penalty also has a large chunk of its history in England. In the Sixteenth Century, under the reign of Henry VIII, an approximate 72,000 people were executed. They would use boiling, burning at the stake, hanging and beheading, put their criminals at justice. Most of the people who were being executed had committed crimes such as marrying a jew, treason and lying, which at the time were despicable felonies. Today, the death penalty is given to a wide array of felons which vary from each country. Most countries who practice capital punishment use it to punish acts of murder, sexual offences, treason, and espionage. Countries who are ruled by religion use it against religious crimes such as leaving an Islamic nation, an offence against the state religion, blasphemy, Islamic crimes and even witchcraft. In China, the death penalty is given to many people involved in human trafficking as it is currently a huge issue in their country, as is drug trafficking in Southeast Asia.
Today we now use slightly more “humane” methods, if executing someone can even be classified as humane, as someone being burnt alive or crucified is just taking it WAY too far. So instead, we inject them with a cocktail of fatal drugs, lock them in a gas chamber, and electrocute them as well as a few other “safer” procedures. In the United States, most executions are done by unqualified civilians who volunteer to do the process and sometimes even get paid a small amount. This is obviously completely unsafe and unfair to the inmate. A study done by a professor in the United States shows that through 1890 – 2010 8,776 people were executed in the U.S. and 276 of those executions (3.15%) were botched. Lethal injection had the most failed executions (85, with 1,054 total executions in this timeframe) and the firing squad had the least (0, with 34 executions). It is no secret that while being the simplest, lethal injection is the riskiest and unpredictable method of execution available. So my question is, why is it the most used method of execution in the 21st century? With the amount of progress and knowledge we have gained, it really confuses me that we still continue to use a highly dangerous procedure that has been proven over time to be unfit for use on any living thing. This on its own is a huge reason why we should not continue to do executions.
The worst thing about the death penalty is that the process of choosing who receives it and who doesn’t can be very biased. Research done in 2011 shows that in Louisiana, the odds of a death sentence were 97% higher for those whose victim was white than those whose were black. Another one found that in California, those who murdered a white person were more than 3 times as likely to be sentenced to death as those who murdered a black person, and more than 4 times more likely as those who murdered a Latino. Racism, xenophobia and prejudgment play an unfortunate role in our world and unfortunately, many people in positions of power are biased by their personal views while making life or death decisions about others. A study done in 2014 shows that jurors in Washington state are three times as more likely to recommend a death sentence for a black defendant than for a white defendant in a similar case. It’s just how most people are, and what makes our society the way it is, that everyone’s opinions and views differ. We all see what we want to see, and that’s okay. But, if that’s the case, then a decision such as whether someone should be put to death or not shouldn’t be allowed to be made by anyone. It seems incredibly unfair to let people’s opinions and views dictate whether someone deserves to live or not. Everyone should absolutely have the right to control their life, no matter where you live or what you’ve done.
Surprise! Killing someone for committing a crime does not reduce the amount of crime being committed. A good example of this is how the Southern states in the U.S. seem to have the highest amount of executions, 80%, and still somehow has the highest murder rates. There is a strong misconception here, that criminals actually will stop committing crimes because they fear being executed. Past U.S. President George W. Bush was and still is a strong advocate for the death penalty. During his five years through 1995 – 2000 while governing the state of Texas (which upholds the nation’s majority of executions) he presided over 131 executions, more than any governor had ever done as it is quite rare for most governors to approve executions. He believes heavily that “The death penalty, when properly administered, saves lives” and relied well on that statement during his presidential campaign to win. While Bush spent 2001 – 2009 as president, America’s crime rates stayed very stagnant. According to the FBI annual crime reports, the highest number of crime during Bush’s time in the office was in 2002, with 11,878,954 crimes and the lowest being in 2009, the year he lost his presidency to Barack Obama, with 10,762,956 crimes. Since Obama’s inauguration date was on January 20, 2009, he was essentially that year’s president, making Bush’s full last year 2008. That year had a crime number of 11,160,543, which was still the lowest during the Bush administration. It’s interesting because 2009 was the lowest crime had been since 1974 in the United States. And throughout President Barack Obama’s 9 years as president through 2009 – 2016, the numbers went lower and lower each year, the lowest they’d been for over 30 years. It’s also important to note that Obama did not support the death penalty, and 5 states stopped using capital punishment during his time. In 2015 (the most recent year which U.S. crime data has been released) the number of crime committed went the lowest it was during the Obama administration, being 9,225,197 which went down 1.935.346 from Bush’s lowest in 2008. If the crime statistics lowered dramatically in the U.S while under the administration of a president who did not support nor participate in the activity of capital punishment, after having a president whose campaign was built off how the death penalty saves lives and stops crime, is it really working?
And finally, not only is the death penalty dangerous, immoral and unfair, but it also costs A LOT. There are so many facts to back this statement up. In Texas, a death penalty case costs approximately $2.3 million, about three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years. Legal costs for death penalty trials in Kansas average about $400,000 per case, compared to $100,000 per case without the death penalty. A new study in California revealed that the cost of the death penalty in the state has been over $4 billion since 1978. Can you imagine that a country in billions of dollars of debt is forcing their taxpayers to dish out millions of unnecessary dollars to murder people? In Colorado, a death penalty trial can cost taxpayers up to $3.5 million, versus $150,000 for life in parole. These outrageous costs could save their population a lot of money that could be used to pay other things that are much more urgent than an execution of a criminal. An infographic shows that in Colorado, the money not used for the death penalty could be used for things such as paying 77 firefighter’s salaries, to buy more than 40,000 high school algebra textbooks, to provide one month of essential services to 10,000 elderly people, to give approximately 500 children access to the early start program and so much more. These are all such important things that the state of Colorado and many other locations are missing out on because all the money is being focused on one thing – executions.
It is without a doubt a pressing issue for the death penalty to be abolished worldwide. It has been a part of our history for thousands of years and is truly outdated in 2017. Executions are a cruel and unsafe practice, they can be biased and completely unfair, they do not prevent crime from happening and cost taxpayers everywhere a disgusting amount of money that is clearly being spent wrong. Our world is sadly filled with colossal amounts of crime, which will never be resolved. But I truly do believe that with proper reinforcement and practices we can diminish it. I think that it’s time for people to wake up, and realise that murdering a murderer is the most hypocritical thing we can possibly do. As Victor Hugo once said, “What says the law? You will not kill. How does it say it? By killing.”
Death penalty statistics, country by country
Introduction to the Death Penalty
Capital Punishment in China
Crime Levels: Countries Compared
Country vs. Country: Canada and United States compared
Bush and the Death Penalty
George W. Bush’s Death Penalty Catch-22
States with and without Death Penalty
The United States Crime Rates 1960 – 2015
Misplaced Priorities: An Infographic on the Cost of Death Penalty Trials