The Death Penalty
The death penalty is a moral value issue that has brought much controversy within society. It is morally justifiable to continue to practice the death penalty for convicted felons who are a threat to society. The death penalty is authorized in 37 states in the United States as well as by the U. S. Military. There are 13 states as well as the District of Columbia that do not practice the death penalty.
Capital punishment, another term used for the death penalty in the United States, is reserved mainly for those convicted of aggravated murder or felony murder. Other crimes that may fall under the capital punishment category are use of a weapon of mass destruction, treason against the United States, terrorism, and in some states aggravated kidnapping. Sentencing a person to death is the job of a judge that is assigned on a case by case basis.
Each of the above listed crimes should be taken on a case by case basis, however, the death penalty should remain an option if the crime is violent, and if the criminal is unable to safely be returned to society. Those who oppose the death penalty claim that the death of a convicted felon is costly, and also point to the possibility of a wrongful conviction. These arguments are not relevant due to the alternative cost of keeping someone in prison and the accuracy and fairness of the current justice system in the United States.
The first, and probably most morally justifiable, reason to continue to allow capital punishment is the justice and closure it gives to the families of the victims of violent crime (Messerli, 2012). When a family member is violently taken away by another person there is nothing that can be done to bring that person back, however, the justice that is brought when the offender is sentenced to the same fate is some comfort to family members. One case that illustrates this is the case of Dawn Romano Garvin. Dawn was a U. S.
Navy wife who was murdered along with three of her friends in her apartment while her husband was out to sea (Kane, 2003). Her father discovered her body after calling her several times and getting no answer. Her family is in favor of the death penalty for her murderer because they say it is justice (Kane, 2003). Another reason to continue to use the death penalty as punishment is that it serves as a form of negative reinforcement for committing a crime in the first place. Knowing that death is the possible punishment for violent crime may deter some criminals from ever committing a crime in the first place (Messerli, 2012).
Not only will it prevent violent crime out in society, but it will also serve as a crime deterrent within the prison system itself. Without the death penalty what would prevent a criminal who is already serving a life sentence without parole from going on a killing spree within prison walls? The death penalty is necessary to prevent these sorts of crimes from occurring. Prison overcrowding is another reason that the death penalty must remain active. The Bureau of Justice reports that state and federal prisons in 19 states are operating far over 100 percent capacity and many others are almost in the same condition (Earley, 2009).
Imagine what the prison system would look like without putting those most violent prisoners to death. If you cram prisoners into a small space and give them nothing productive to do, you will breed violence. Or if you release prisoners back into the community not having taught them how to live as law-abiding citizens, you will soon see them return to prison for potentially violent crimes. The only answer to this problem is to bring swift justice to those violent criminals by using capital punishment. Most Americans, about 65 percent, view the death penalty as a morally acceptable punishment for violent criminals.
So, what about the other 26 percent who say that it is morally wrong? The opponents of capital punishment use arguments that are inaccurate to justify their stance that the death penalty is morally unacceptable. One of the arguments the opponents use against the death penalty is that it is costly (Messerli, 2012). While it is true that the death penalty can be costly, it is no comparison to the cost of keeping someone imprisoned for life.
The cost of putting someone to death is averaged to be about 1. 9 million dollars, while the cost of keeping someone in prison for 50 years is about 5. million. The only alternative for the death penalty is life in prison without parole (Sharp, 2012). Keeping this in mind, the cost of eliminating the death penalty would be much more than keeping it in effect. The estimated cost of keeping someone imprisoned for life does not even include the cost of medical care that prisoners would surely require as they age, not to mention the high incidence of health conditions such as hepatitis and AIDS that are common within the walls of a prison (Sharp, 2012).
These cases would greatly increase the costs, therefore making the argument of eliminating the death penalty for monetary reasons irrelevant. Another point that opponents of the death penalty make against it is the incidence of wrongfully convicted people who are put to death (Messerli, 2012). There is no dispute that this is always a tragedy and that no innocent person should be put to death. The problem with this argument is in the set up of the United States Justice system.
The system is set up with a procedure for defense and appeals that is effective in ensuring that innocent people do not end up on death row. There are countless cases that represent the effectiveness of this system (Sharp, 2012). Capital punishment opponents often cite these cases in their arguments claiming that they represent innocent people who were sentenced to death row. This is not, in fact, in support of their argument but quite the opposite. These cases represent the number of people who were, at first, wrongfully accused and then used the system to prove their innocence (Sharp, 2012).
They were not put to death so this argument does not make sense. There are a few number of cases that opponents say innocence was discovered after the convicted person was put to death. In these cases there is no definitive proof of innocence at all and without a trial being held, there is no way to say for certain whether or not the person was innocent at all. Furthermore, there have been so many advances in science and forensics in recent years that it is becoming more and more evident whether or not a person is guilty of a crime.
With the advances in DNA science it is much easier to tell guilt without a shadow of doubt (Sharp, 2012). It is morally acceptable to continue to use the death penalty as a punishment for violent crime in the United States. Capital punishment is often the only thing that brings comfort to the families of victims of violent crime. The justice system is set up in such a way that provides comfort for victims of violence while greatly reducing the risk of a person being wrongfully accused of such crimes.
The problem of prison overcrowding ould be somewhat soothed by continuing to practice the death penalty as opposed to life imprisonment. While the death penalty can be costly, it is not near as costly as keeping an inmate in prison for life without parole which is the only other option for violent criminals who cannot safely be returned to society. Finally, without the death penalty there would be no deterrent for criminals who are already incarcerated for life. It is important that society continue to protect the innocent by continuing to let the death penalty be an option for violent crime punishment.