The death penalty is a failure

Why I will never endorse capital punishment

By Cazzy Lewchuk, Opinions Editor

The death penalty was used frequently in the past, but is widely frowned upon today. Very few Western or developed countries have it as a law, and fewer practice it. The United States of America is the only first world country left with the death penalty, and even there it has been outlawed in many states.

I strongly believe it is wrong for a state to kill its own citizens. I believe it is not right for any culture to kill people to show that killing people is wrong. Death is always tragic and awful, and it is counter-productive to add to the death toll. The right to life is a right valued by every culture, and the death penalty is a barbaric, outdated method that takes away that right.

Systemically, the death penalty is a failure. It is not administered fairly, or even equally. Capital punishment is often used as a bargaining tool, with defence agreeing to certain terms on the condition that they do not face the death sentence. Those who do face the death sentence are statistically more often people of colour or coming from poverty. Someone should not be executed for the same crime someone else only would only go to prison for simply because they were unable to hire a better lawyer.

In addition, with the lengthy appeal process and all the bureaucracy involved, the death sentence ends up costing a judicial system more than life imprisonment. Many inmates wait years, or even decades before their executions. It is psychologically torturous and cruel/unusual punishment to keep people incarcerated knowing that they will be killed by the state, but having no idea when.

It is true that there are many horrible, dangerous people who should be restrained by society so that they can’t harm others. However, I don’t believe every murderer is completely damaged and useless beyond all repair, and I feel that the death penalty was used alarmingly and unnecessarily often in the past. Today, not all murderers in areas with capital punishment face the death penalty, because the system is inconsistent with regards to who is deserving of life or death.

For those who do need harsh punishment to protect society, life imprisonment is just as effective in keeping them locked away. Many maximum security prisons have conditions that are isolating and torturous, and this punishment can be even worse than death.

The specifics of an execution are dark and disturbing. Killing someone is a group effort, from the law official who signs the order to the anonymous person who pulls the switch. It is not a pleasant thing to engage in, and those involved with executions often have psychological damage in the future. Why do we ask our citizens to kill others in the name of justice?

Finally, there is always a chance of innocence. Wrongful executions can and do happen in every country that practices the death penalty. Even with modern forensic evidence, manipulations and false convictions can occur. If someone is in jail, they can be let go, but there is no reversing death, and all involved in the execution now have innocent blood on their hands.

Most countries saw the death penalty as the failure it was long ago and got rid of it, and it’s only a matter of time before the US follows suit. I simply do not support it being used anywhere.