The subject of the death penalty is one of the most hotly contested issues in American societies today. It is one of the topics where almost everyone seems to have a stand. Some people oppose it, citing the fact that no one has to take another person’s life. Others support the idea of the death penalty, arguing that those who undergo it deserve what they get. Most of those who support the death penalty support it in cases where the convict has been accused of murder. America remains one of the few democracies in the world today that continues to support the death penalty. The criminal justice system is not always right in convicting offenders, as it has sometimes convicted people who are innocent. The death penalty should be banned in all states for it has led to the execution of innocent people, it does not guarantee an end or reduction to crime, and it is a reflection of the unbalanced nature in the correctional facilities.
There are numerous cases where some of the people sentenced to death are innocent. Since 1973, more than one hundred people who were on death row were released because of wrongful convictions. Between 1900 and 1985, 350 people who had been convicted of capital crimes were innocent (Feingold, 2000). While some of these people managed to escape convictions, others were not so fortunate and they ended up dying in the hands of the state. There are many errors within the justice system, which has caused many of the wrongful convictions. Factors such as racial prejudice lack of suitable legal representation, misconduct from members of the criminal justice system, including the police and the prosecution, and suppression, inadequacy, and misrepresentation of evidence contribute to wrongful convictions. In addition, some of the eye witnesses called to testify are not reliable, yet the courts have sometimes relied on the evidence presented by such witnesses. Had these people been sentenced, the state and the government could have been to blame for taking the life of an innocent person. Many of these people had languished and endured many years in prison before they were released. They had lost a significant part of their lives while in prison, denying them the chance to start or be with their families, further their education, secure jobs, and generally enjoy living life as they were supposed to from the beginning. The government cannot refund the time taken away from them.
Practicing the death penalty does not guarantee an end to crime. States that practice the death penalty do not report incidences of low crime rates. They do not have low murder and homicide rates. The states with the lowest crime rates or the lowest homicide and murder rates are not necessarily the states with the lowest rates of crime (ACLU, 2007). Texas has the highest number of executions and California has the highest number of people on death row. People do not fear these numbers, but they continue committing crimes in these states. The fact that there are more people committing crimes despite the death penalty shows that people do not fear the death penalty. There are other reasons that compel people to murder others. Focusing on these reasons will ensure that the concerned authorities identify ways of reducing their impact.
America suffers from a racial imbalance in its correctional facilities. Although African Americans make up less than 15% of the country’s population, they are overwhelmingly represented in prisons and other correctional facilities, where they make up almost 50% of the people on death row (Common Dreams, 2007). Most of the people sentenced to death are white, but the African American population closely follows. The numbers of African Americans sentenced to death are more than white offenders are based on their population. This means that, in the end, most of those who will face convictions are African Americans. This racial imbalance is particularly disturbing, especially considering that some of the individuals who have been sentenced to death are innocent. In addition, most of the minorities in prison are poor, and they cannot afford to hire the best lawyers to defend them. This denies them the opportunity to prove their innocence.
Some people support the death penalty, especially in cases of murder. They do not see any other appropriate punishment for a person who has killed another. Serial killers, those who rape and then kill for no apparent reason, those who kill innocent and defenseless victims and other such offenders often evoke feelings of anger among people. Some people are so cruel in the way they execute their killings, that they compel others to support the death penalty. Many people feel that there is no deserving punishment for such people. Whereas this seems as the just thing to do, it is not always the right thing to do. This is because there are many reasons that compel others to do the things they do. A person in his or her right mind cannot choose to kill another. In many of the capital crimes committed, the offenders have often had a troubled past, as well as mental and other psychological problems with which to deal. This leaves them incapacitated in one way or another. The state cannot find out the exact thing that led the person to commit such crimes, if they do not take the time to examine the person. Other alternatives such as life without parole are more suitable alternatives than the death penalty. Such an option saves on costs, which are often associated with the death penalty.
States should consider banning the death penalty since they do not benefit from it. Other than the reflection of racial imbalance that is present in the correctional facilities, death penalty has also taken the lives of innocent victims. These people were incarcerated and executed, yet they were innocent of the charges of which they were accused. The government should put more effort in identifying the reasons that compel people to commit capital crimes. It should then look for strategies that ensure there are fewer capital crimes. The government loses a lot of money on the death penalty, as the offenders spend resources on trial, pre trials and appeals, with the aim of proving their innocence. Instead of the death penalty, the government should consider alternatives such as life without parole. This will not only reduce the cost, but I believe that it is the most suitable punishment. Death provides an easy escape for those who have already committed a crime since they do not have to undergo any suffering. On the other hand, life without parole ensures that the offenders will remain in prison for the rest of their lives.