Of all the atrocities one can commit, murder is among the most immoral and unsettling crimes imaginable. What punishment is most worthy for such a heinous crime? Why the very same atrocity once more, of course, carried out by a body of government. An eye for an eye is just… right? Or so we have been led to believe by our core, heavily misguided, western religious values. A more critical evaluation of the death penalty may lead us to reevaluate our standards as a whole society. There is an important distinction to be made between just punishment by the hands of an individual and just punishment executed by bureaucratic institutions. Many standards for civil society have been made throughout human history. There were once gladiators that killed each other for our entertainment, now we have professional football. In the past society tolerated slavery, now we exploit underpaid immigrants. Today there are still many toxic elements of our species where we have not made any “progress”; poverty, war, and capital punishment. Every person is equipped with different shades of morality, however, we all share a broader human consciousness. In our ongoing work to perfect or evolve that consciousness, there are certain goals we must achieve, or standards we must pursue. Abolishing the death penalty is one step closer to a more civil society and a more perfect collective consciousness. If an awareness to a collective consciousness and desire for a better species does not sway you, then here are many legal/logistical reasons to end the death penalty.

  1. Cost: The median cost of a life sentence is 40,000 dollars while the median cost of a single death sentence is 1.26 million dollars. Because we have a constitutional judicial system, those on death row appeal their cases many times once convicted. During a death penalty trial, more experts are brought in, and more pre-tail motions are filed, racking up the bill.
  2. The death penalty is NOT a deterrent: In 2008 the FBI reported that states without capital punishment have fewer murders than states with capital punishment.
  3. The death penalty is racially biased: Since 1977, 77 percent of the executed have been charged with killing white victims while African Americans make up half of all homicide victims.
  4. Many are wrongfully convicted: Since 1973, 140 people have been released form death row due to wrongful conviction. Within this same time period, 1,200 people have been executed.
  5. The death penalty disregards mental illness: The United States legal systems do not have academic support when ruling someone as mentally ill. Conditions of mental illness are often overlooked.
  6. Executions are often cruel and unusual: Often lethal injections go wrong causing the victims great agony. The long line of death row is its own form of torture, with its constant uncertainty of certain death.

(Retrieved from http://www.amnestyusa.org/pdfs/DeathPenaltyFactsMay2012.pdf)

One might wonder how something so illogical and so immoral can persist even today. It must be some form of mass ignorance or blind commitment to values that can not possibly be validated in such large scale. Even if you support the death penalty with all of your heart, surely you can see that any “good” or potential justice that may come, it can not possibly hold up to all the harm that this intuition causes. To not only the guilty, but so many of the innocent, even you in one way or another. So what does it take to change this? Sure we could actively take to the streets and urge lawmakers to abolish the death penalty, but who has the time? There is an easier, more modern approach that won’t take any time or significant effort. First simply adopt abolishment into your psyche and your political self. Second, this comes naturally after step one, if such a thing may come up in conversation, just simply present this or any information available on the topic and allow this alternate perspective to inhabit the conversation and the minds around it. Third, and most importantly, quit teaching children the “value” of killing a person for killing a person! It’s hard to believe that it has to be said, but killing is wrong, even killing a killer is wrong. Although this process (education and moral adjustment) is far too gradual, it is the most effective means of obtaining social change. Within a generation, we may end this archaic tradition and be one step closer to our better selves.