The purpose of prison is to reform, to rehabilitate. If someone is executed, the chance for rehabilitation drops to almost zero. Therefore, the purpose of capital punishment is not to rehabilitate, but to punish. But the use of the death penalty is questionable; is it painful enough? When should someone be held ultimately accountable for their actions? The Supreme Court recently ruled in the case of Roper v. Simmons
that no state can execute anyone for a crime committed under the age of eighteen. While some people claim that the death penalty is the only thing standing between them and a horde of murderous teenagers, I believe that the Supreme Court did indeed make a good decision. A powerful decision, one that will reshape the very fabric of society and (maybe) increase property value.
For years, our continued use of capital punishment has created a rift with Europe. Out of all the countries in the developed (civilized) world, only the United States and Japan still use it. About 80% of the Japanese population supports the use of capital punishment, but Japan is small and has no influence on much of the world. The United States, however, is a military superpower and therefore more important. But now that the Supreme Court has ended the death penalty for minors, the Europeans might start getting uncomfortably close to us. It is a commonly known fact that in Europe, the culture is different. In some countries it is acceptable to just sit down next to strangers on a bus and start talking to them. Now that the Europeans think that we’re becoming more like them, thousands of European tourists will descend on the United States like locusts on a dead horse and make uncomfortable conversation with us. A truly horrible fate.
A question that keeps coming up is, “Is it even possible for someone who committed murder to be re-absorbed into society?” Do people change over time? Can a killer ever become a successful member of the community again? The answer to all these questions is no (maybe). Being a sociopath is an illness for which there is no cure. Some people can’t and will never understand the way they hurt others. These aren’t people who did stupid things as kids. These are true sociopaths who understand the difference between right and wrong and just don’t care. If we let these psychos out, they’ll kill again. Although, a few years ago, this Japanese guy in Paris killed a woman and ate her flesh. When he was arrested, he was sent to a French mental hospital. Then, he was deported to Japan, where the Japanese government simply released him. For years, this cannibal-killer has walked free. I don’t know about you, but there are some who don’t want Hannibal Lecter living next to them.
But is the death penalty even cost-effective? After someone is sentenced to death, they appeal. This appeal costs taxpayers millions of dollars, and ties up the courts for decades. It seems that it would be cheaper just to let them live in squalor for the rest of their lives. The cost of capital punishment in Florida between 1973 and 1988 was $57,000,000. This amounts to just over $3,000,000 per person. (Miami Herald, July 10, 1988)
. If those sentences were commuted to life in prison, with the cost of food and amenities at only $17,000 a year, 40 years in prison would only cost the state about $680,000 (The Geography of Execution... The Capital Punishment Quagmire in America, Keith Harries and Derral Cheatwood 1997 p.6)
. As any idiot can see, it costs Florida over $2 million dollars to execute someone instead of keeping them in prison forever. If I had to choose between executing a sociopath and paying lower taxes, I’d say “Throw that guy in jail and throw away the key!” (actual quote by me).
Another problem with capital punishment is that it isn’t all that painful. Back in the day, if someone committed murder they were hung from a rope for the whole town to see. Now that’s justice! Today, if someone kills their whole family with a spoon, they get to relax on death row for a few years, and then sit down in a nice quiet room while doctors put a needle into their arm. Sometimes, the victims’ families don’t even get to watch! How is that justice? They even swab the guy’s arm with alcohol. Why do they do that? Are they worried he’s going to get sick after the execution? As I successfully stated above, it costs the state more to kill someone than to keep them alive. So, I assume that one of the main reasons for capital punishment is revenge. How can the victim’s family taste the sweet scent of vengeance if nobody suffers? If you’re not going to execute someone right, don’t even bother.
Yet another problem with the death penalty is the utter incompetence of the bureaucratic system that maintains it. What would happen if someone was wrongly convicted of a crime? If that person was in jail, they could easily be exonerated and released. But let me tell you, exoneration won’t help you when you’re dead. If you have an incompetent lawyer who forgets to file an appeal, it’s too late. The government has, for decades, executed innocent people. Between 1900 and 1985, new evidence cleared 350 people of crimes they didn’t commit. These pardons were given years after those innocent people were sent to prison, although some were pardoned only minutes before being executed. 23 innocent people actually died (Hugo Adam Bedau and Michael L. Radelet, "Miscarriages of justice in potentially capital cases" Stanford Law Review, vol. 40, No. 1, November 1987, pages 21-179. Extracted from: When the State Kills... The death penalty: a human rights issue, Amnesty International 1989)
There are several reasons to keep the death penalty; vengeance, keeping away talkative Europeans, etc. But capital punishment costs us more than we bargained for- $2,000,000 more! And that’s just per person
. As of 2002, there were over 3,500 people on death row. If all their sentences were commuted to life, states across the country would save over seven billion
dollars. With that kind of money, we could save social security! Or do a bunch of other things, whatever. Still… would you
want to talk to a bunch of tourists?