Two men were executed Monday night in Arkansas in the nation’s first double execution since 2000. Oklahoma and Louisiana, on the other hand, have recently worked to end capital punishment in their states, even if only temporarily.
The sudden strides across the country in different directions have reignited the debate on the efficacy and morality of the death penalty in the United States.
This debate, though, should have been settled a long time ago. There are few good reasons to support the use of capital punishment, and its many flaws make it a nearly untenable position in today’s America.
The main reason the death penalty is supported in the world today is the myth that it deters other violent crimes. A study found that 88 percent of experts in criminal justice studies denied the claim that capital punishment actually deters future criminals.
Crimes that merit such severe punishments are often done hastily or by those in need of mental healthcare. Neither of these scenarios involve a careful weighing of the consequences of crime. The difference between life in prison or death probably means very little to someone considering such heinous acts.
Statistically, there is no correlation between the death penalty and lower crime rates. In fact, states without capital punishment have lower murder rates than those with it.
The death penalty does not only fail to achieve its purpose as a punishment but also causes a great deal of harm and injustice.
The exoneration of someone on death row is not uncommon; for every 10 people who have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S., one person has been set free.
It’s not difficult to imagine, then, the number of people who aren’t recorded in this statistic because they were executed before they could be exonerated. One study estimates that for every person who was exonerated, another was wrongly killed.
This is the tragic irony of capital punishment: It propagates the very thing it hopes to destroy. In trying to eliminate murder through execution, more innocent lives are lost.
This begs the question: Why do we keep the death penalty around? One reason is the human instinct to meet violence with violence. When the public sees a horrific crime, the first reaction is often extreme punishment to satisfy a thirst for revenge.
While “an eye for an eye” worked as a justice system in ancient times, we have the ability to move past it for a more progressive, restorative sense of justice. The old ways of thinking about justice revolved around what the wronged felt and what revenge they desired.
Now, our views of justice should progress, being centered on the healing of all parties involved. Perhaps our justice system can work for the best outcome of the victim, criminal and public without contradiction.
The death penalty simply doesn’t allow for this type of justice. Instead of considering the facts of what actually deters crime, it is an emotional reaction of meeting violence with more violence. It makes society more dangerous, not safer, for the innocent.
Capital punishment also rejects the notion of redemption for criminals. Instead of allowing them the opportunity to change their ways and become contributing members of society, even if that is while incarcerated, execution cuts their lives short.
When trying to decide what justice is, we should contemplate the goal of our system. If it is to make a healthier, more whole society where redemption and safety are priorities, we should move past the death penalty.
Daniel Payne is a freshman integrated marketing communications major from Collierville, Tennessee.