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For as long as there has been a justice system, there have been crimes deemed so serious in nature that their perpetrators have been punished by having their very lives taken. However, it is my opinion that this archaic tradition no longer has place in modern society, and I will show compelling arguments as to why the death penalty should be abolished.
First and foremost among the arguments against capital punishment is the fact that no legal system is completely full proof. The innocent are sometimes wrongfully convicted. For example, since 1992, DNA evidence has exonerated more than 15 inmates who were on death row in the USA; people who would otherwise have been put to death for crimes they did not commit. It has happened many times in the past, and as long as no one invents a surefire way to determine guilt, can any of us really guarantee that it will not happen again?
Also, in America, because of the irreversible nature of the death penalty, the Constitution ensures that the legal process for putting someone to their death is very long and complex. This results in far greater costs to the state, when compared to the alternative of life in prison without parole. The same holds true for other countries with similar judicial systems. Discrimination is also an issue, as it has been shown that minorities are more likely to receive the death penalty. How many times have we not picked up the newspaper to read about countries using capital punishment as a means to silence political dissidents and other activists?
One of the primary arguments in favor of capital punishment can be found in the principle of retribution, or “an eye for an eye”. Having the perpetrator put to death can bring a sense of closure and satisfy the need for revenge for the victims and the victims’ families. This connects to human nature on a basic level and is something that I believe we can all relate to. Yet we must keep in mind that, while the death of a criminal might bring some degree of satisfaction to those affected by the crimes, it will not undo the actions. Killing the murderer will not bring the murdered back to life.
The death sentence is also heralded as the ultimate form of crime deterrent. Obviously, a dead person cannot repeat his or her crimes, but there is also the preventative effect the death sentence has on potential future murders or other serious crimes. However, studies have shown that the threat of the death penalty does not work as well as a deterrent as we might think. This is usually attributed to the brutalizing effect capital punishment has on society, sending us the message that, under certain circumstances, it is acceptable to kill another human being.
In conclusion, it is my opinion that the arguments put forth in favor of the death penalty fail to convince. The risk of sentencing someone innocent is too great, and the alternative of life in prison does not only have the advantage of being reversible, but also costs far less for the state to carry out. Thus, the death penalty is an outdated form of punishment, and we as a society should be working towards a worldwide abolishment.