Arguably one of the most controversial aspects of prisons around the world, the death penalty poses an interesting question to society; is it morally permissible to take a life as punishment for a crime? In my opinion, capital punishment is not good fit for modern society, as proven by many statistics throughout the decades. First of all, the cost of sentencing someone the death penalty is far greater than housing them in Canadian federal prisons, costing the government and taxpayers extreme amounts of money, which is not necessary. Secondly, executions can go wrong in many ways, making it a worse experience for everyone, rather than using life sentences. Finally, capital punishment does not deter crime better than other punishment methods, nor does it effectively stop others from committing similar crimes. To start, the cost of sentencing someone to the death penalty, housing them on death row, and executing them, is far greater than keeping inmates within the Canadian federal prison system for life. This extra cost is unnecessary, and it could be eliminated by getting rid of capital punishment. Canadian federal prisons held 14 310 inmates in 2017, and each of those inmates cost on average about $314 each day, or $114 587 a year.
Although this number may seem high, according to data from California, inmates on death row cost taxpayers $122 700 more each year than a general population inmate. To put all these numbers into perspective, the average salary in Canada is only $51 000 a year, and it costs four times that amount to house a death row inmate each year. Not to mention that even the trials for people facing the death penalty cost significantly more than life sentence trials. The same California data shows that cases seeking the death penalty cost $1.7 million, while trials seeking life in prison cost an average of $1 million. On top of those extra costs, the cost of the actual execution is estimated to be about $133 000. This includes fees such as the wages of staff, and transportation of the inmate, etc. Overall, although it may seem that a lifetime in prison would cost more than seeking and executing the death penalty, when all the charges are added together, capital punishment is the more expensive, yet unnecessary option. Another reason that capital punishment is not a good fit for modern society, is that there are many possible errors to be made during the process of the death penalty that increase the difficulty of the situation for everyone. One main fear with establishing capital punishment is the chance of false accusations, which can either result in exoneration or an incorrect execution. 164 people in the United States have been exonerated since 1973, meaning they were incorrectly sentenced to death. Some of the reasons for all these wrongful convictions include; false accusations, false or misleading forensic evidence, inadequate legal defense, false or fabricated confession, and mistaken eyewitnesses. These are risky factors to allow the conviction of a person’s life for a crime that in the end they didn’t commit.
On top of wrongful convictions, another error that occurs during the death penalty process is the actual execution of the inmate. In the United States 10 executions, that have already happened, have had their cases changed to be referred to as “executed but possibly innocent” along with at least 39 more executions that have evidence of innocence. When an execution inevitably goes wrong during the process of executing the inmate, this is referred to as a botched execution. Between 1890 and 2010 in the United States, 3% of all executions were botched, increasing to 5.4% for lethal gas executions, and to 7.1% for lethal injection executions. One of many botched executions is Doyle Lee Hamm who was exposed to two and a half hours of needles being poked repeatedly into his legs, feet and groin in attempt to find a vein for a lethal injection. It was called off, but by the end of the procedure he had 11 puncture wounds, serious bleeding, extreme pain, bruising and a swollen blood clot. This is just one of many cases where inmates already sentenced to death, experience excess and unnecessary pain, showing that if life sentences were used in place of the death penalty, this would not occur. These cases of capital punishment going wrong demonstrate that life sentences better suit society today, than the death penalty does. Lastly, capital punishment has no deterring factors, nor does it stop others from committing similar crimes, compared to its counterpart of life sentences. In a study at the University of Colorado, Michael Radelet and Traci Lacock found that many criminologists don’t believe that the death penalty is effective in deterring crime. Only 12% of criminologists believe that the death penalty deters crime, meaning 88% of criminologists in the United States don’t believe the death penalty effectively stops crimes. It seems that if the death penalty in fact doesn’t deter crimes, many arguments pro-death penalty are proven wrong. If there are no increased deterring factors to capital punishment then what value does it hold over life sentences?
On top of the professionals opinions, there have been polls taken of the United States public. In 2006, the poll found that only 34% of the public believe capital punishment lowers crime rate by deterring people from committing crimes. Both the professional and public opinion align to show that the vast majority of people don’t believe that the death penalty is a productive deterrent in eliminating crime. As capital punishment doesn’t display increased deterring factors, it proves that there are better punishment options for modern society rather than resorting to the death penalty. To conclude, there is no place for the death penalty in modern society, as it has proven itself to be an outdated, ineffective punishment for crimes. Firstly, capital punishment comes along with monetary costs for the government and taxpayers, far greater than the equivalent of life sentences. Also, there are many possibilities for errors to be made during the death penalty process, making it a worse fit for modern society than life sentences. Finally, there is no increase in deterrence over other alternative punishments for crimes, making it ineffective and unnecessary. Modern society needs a more effective punishment solution rather than resorting to death sentences that is proven to have no benefits over alternative jail sentences.Therefore, taking a life as punishment for a crime has proven to be ineffective, as it has no justifying results that support it over other punishment methods.
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