Capital Punishment Sign of the Times The new millenium has ushered in many wonderful things for the world to look forward to such as new advances in medical science, food production technology, and communication systems that allow even the most remote places on earth to a wealth of information instantly. However, many places around the world have taken three steps back in human rights for every step taken in technological advances. Capital punishment heads up this A-list if you will, of crimes against humanity that are carried out in the name of justice each and every day globally. We are inundated with images of violence and so-called reality based TV shows that use shock value to get ratings. Years of exposure to this type of media have numbed the senses and devalued human life to the point of having complacent and apathetic views towards death and by attrition; capital punishment. In our fast food age we want everything right now: cell phones, pagers, Internet access in our cars, drive-through restaurants, pizza, and of course justice.
This instant gratification comes with high price tag. According to the Dept. of Justice’s Subcommittee on Federal Death Penalty Cases, ” .. the average cost of cases not seeking the death penalty average $55,772 .. and the average cost of death penalty convictions are $218,112″. This does not include reimbursement for non-attorney fees such as investigators and expert witnesses, which average $269,139 for capital trials and only $9,159.
The costs of state executions vary depending on the financial status of the person accused and length of the appeals process. However, the most comprehensive study done by two public policy professors at North Carolina’s Duke University, revealed that the costs of capital punishment are staggering. According to James McCloskey author of “The Death Penalty Should Be Eliminated”, the study released in 1993 focused on all the death penalty cases in 1991 and 1992 (77 total). This study concluded that the extra cost to the state of each execution actually carried out was $2.16 million. This means that it cost approximately $3 million dollars to try, convict, litigate, house, and then finally execute a person while it costs slightly over $1 million to secure and carry out a life sentence. The money that is spent on executions should go toward the prevention of crime and to the victim’s families, not to carry out yet another death whether it is legalized or not.
The money saved could be spent on preventative measures at the local and state level for alcohol and drug treatment centers. A study done at CSU Chico found that 49% of people incarcerated for murder or attempted murder were under the influence of alcohol. This at least would be a step in a positive direction instead of just closing our eyes and thinking everything will fix itself. If our society wants to get serious about crime prevention, it needs to find alternative ways in dealing with the problems other than end-all solutions like capital punishment. Deterrence is a big point that supporters of the death penalty like to bring up when they’re out of ideas that would make half an ounce of sense.
Richard Dieter, executive director the Death Penalty Information Center, reports that in January 1995 Peter D. Hart Research Associates conducted an opinion poll of randomly selected police chiefs in the United States. The researchers asked the “top cops” to rank the effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrence to murder and crime in general. The Hart Poll found that the chiefs always ranked it last behind curbing drug abuse, more police officers on the streets, lowering technical barriers to prosecution, longer sentences, and a better economy with more jobs (Deiter23). If anyone would know how the criminal mind works, it is the criminal himself.
If you accept that as postulate, then consider this; Michael Ross, an inmate at Somers Correctional Institute in Somers, Connecticut, says in his essay, Criminals Are Not Deterred by the Death Penalty, “It is the premeditated crime that society deems most reprehensible, yet this type of crime is least likely to deterred by the threat of capital punishment”. Even the lay person can understand the meaning of that simple statement even though it comes from a self confessed killer, it rings through loud and clear; death is not a deterrent to death. Proponents of capital punishment say that we are judged by a jury of our peers and that it is a sound democratic system of justice. Thirty-eight states in our country have death penalty laws in place at this time. Five states (Texas, Kansas Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico) currently offer no choice of life without the possibility of parole. Juries in theses states are forced to go with the death penalty simply because there are no alternatives.
This is a system that is democratic and just? I suggest a closer look at policies that allow for these kinds of loopholes. We need to level the playing field to where everyone has a fair chance, especially now that technology has advanced in the field of forensics and DNA testing. We can now take crime scene evidence and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt whether or not a suspect’s genetic material was a match or not, providing that the evidence was not either lost or tampered with. Every case should be reexamined using the DNA technology. If no genetic material is available then so be it.
If there is even the remotest of possibilities, we need to check it out. The only problem with that is; inmates are being put to death faster than the court systems can re-open each case. How can we as a society sit back and tell our children we must kill people who kill people, so people who might kill will know killing is wrong. Yes I know that could was confusing but re-read the last sentence and think about it. It would be a little awkward to say that to someone who is not jaded by years of propaganda beat into their heads by politicians trying to get re-elected and holier than thou brimstone preachers blurting “An eye for an eye”. As far as retribution is concerned, the life sentence is a much greater hardship than one of death.
We all know it is much harder living sometimes than to just pull up anchor and sail away from all your problems. If I had the choice of rotting in some cell for the rest of my life or going to sleep with my favorite last meal in my belly, I’d choose death because it is the easy way out as far as I’m concerned. California State University Chico, “The Dangers of Alcohol Abuse” The Orion 14 September 2000 *http://orion.csuchico.edu/Archives/Volume34/Issue 2ons ofalab.html* Deiter, Richard C. “The Death Penalty Is Not an Effective Enforcement Tool.” Criminal Justice: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed.
Jill Karson San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1998: 22-37 Ross, Michael. “Criminals Are Not Deterred by the Death Penalty.” Criminal Justice: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. Jill Karson San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1998: 39-44 U.S. Dept.
of Justice. Survey of the Federal Death Penalty Analysis and Findings # 1 and # 7. *http://www.uscourts.gov/dpenalty/4REPORT.htm* Bibliography California State University Chico, “The Dangers of Alcohol Abuse” The Orion 14 September 2000 Deiter, Richard C. “The Death Penalty Is Not an Effective Enforcement Tool.” Criminal Justice: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. Jill Karson San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1998: 22-37 Ross, Michael.
“Criminals Are Not Deterred by the Death Penalty.” Criminal Justice: Opposing Viewpoints. Ed. Jill Karson San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1998: 39-44 U.S. Dept. of Justice.
Survey of the Federal Death Penalty Analysis and Findings # 1 and # 7. Social Issues.