Gymnasium Steglitz, Berlin > Advanced Course of English 2001> Project: Capital Punishment in the USA> Group 3 (boys)
What do you gain from Capital Punishment ? "Are you for life, or are you for death ?"
In any discussion of how effective the death penalty is and what it stands for a whole host of issues are involved: One has to consider the intentions of the death penalty as well as its actual meaning and if the intentions can be pursued. Another question related to the effectiveness (which is questioned by 14 states having abolished the death penalty), of capital punishment would be if there are alternative, more promising ways of justice.
It does not help to kill someone, especially if you are in a Christian country. The bishops reject the death penalty, nevertheless allowing it in severe cases. Even the Church appears to have a split opinion. Sister Helen Prejean who was spiritual advisor for several death row inmates emphazises that. She also points out what the different points of view are. " Are you for compassion, or are you for violence? Are you for mercy, or are you for vengeance? Are you for life, or are you for death?" To make it clearer it should be mentioned that despite the loss of a human being some family members forgive the murderer or rapist. Victims' Families For Reconciliation (VFFR) wants to show that mercy should be practised and asks the state not to execute human beings.
They can be viewed as representatives of America's current situation. recent polls show that the agreement with the death penalty has steadily declined from an all time high of 80% to 67%. It is still high, but fewer people tend to favour it because of its cruelty. It is not a pleasant event to see someone shake and burn while he or she is still alive.
Another argument which is often used by supporters is that someone who receives the death penalty is not able to kill again, but the same effect can be reached by sentencing a criminal to lifelong imprisonment without the possibility of parole....
In fact, it is possible to keep death row candidates alive and at the same time deny them the option of early release or parole. The state of California has been practising this method since 1977 and since then no one has ever been released. This lifelong sentence respects the dignity of life which the Church demands and can thus morally be accepted.
Racial discrimination plays a great role in capital cases: A black or a Hispanic person, who murdered a white one is more likely to be sentenced to death than a white one; blacks and Hispanics are involved in 82% of the capital cases; way more than their percentage in society. The likelihood of being sentenced to death is higher for poor people than it is for rich ones, who can afford proper legal representation. Of the 22.000 homicides in the USA each year only 300 become a capital case; a lottery which the minorities and poor lose.
In addition to that it is about 1,25 million dollars cheaper to keep someone in prison than to execute him.
The border between justice and vengeance has yet to be set, but the law which includes and justifies the death penalty, is set too far away from justice to be called acceptable. Although in cases like Timothy McVeigh's it seems almost impossible to show mercy, one has to consider that there is no use but vengeance, which can be gained out of a murderer's death, and, although vengeance and hate are human feelings and just as normal as any other, we should not let them dominate our mind, just like a murderer's mind when committing his crime. The sentence for murderers should rather be lifelong imprisonment and the lower costs which will derive from this should lead to more money, which can be used to help the victim's relatives forget about their pain and overcome their trauma.
The first is that there is a possibility of error. However, the chance that there might be an error is separate from the issue of whether the death penalty can be justified or not. If an error does occur, and an innocent person is executed, then the problem lies in the court system, not in the death penalty. Furthermore, most activities in our world, in which humans are involved, possess a possibility of injury or death. Construction, sports, driving, and air travel all offer the possibility of accidental death even though the highest levels of precautions are taken. These activities continue to take place, and continue to occasionally take human lives, because we have all decided, as a society, that the advantages outweigh the unintended loss. We have also decided that the advantages of having dangerous murderers removed from our society outweigh the losses of the offender.
The second argument against capital punishment is that it is unfair in its administration. Statistics show that the poor and minorities are more likely to receive the death penalty. Once again, this is a separate issue. It can’t be disputed sadly, the rich are more likely to get off with a lesser sentence, and this bias is wrong. However, this is yet another problem of our current court system. The racial and economic bias is not a valid argument against the death penalty. It is an argument against the courts and their unfair system of sentencing.
The third argument is actually a rebuttal to a claim made by some supporters of the death penalty. The claim is that the threat of capital punishment reduces violent crimes. Opponents of the death penalty do not agree and have a valid argument when they say, “The claims that capital punishment reduces violent crime is inconclusive and certainly not proven.”
The fourth argument is that the length of stay on death row, with its endless appeals, delays, technicalities, and retrials, keep a person waiting for death for years on end. It is both cruel and costly. This is the least credible argument against capital punishment. The main cause of such inefficiencies is the appeals process, which allows capital cases to bounce back and forth between state and federal courts for years on end. If supporting a death row inmate for the rest their life costs less than putting them to death, and ending their financial burden on society, then the problem lies in the court system, not in the death penalty. As for the additional argument, that making a prisoner wait for years to be executed is cruel, then would not waiting for death in prison for the rest of your life be just as cruel, as in the case of life imprisonment without parole.
Many Americans will tell you why they are in favor of the death penalty. It is what they deserve. It prevents them from ever murdering again. It removes the burden from taxpayers. We all live in a society with the same basic rights and guarantees. We have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness with equal opportunities. This is the basis for our society. It is the foundation on which everything else is built upon. When someone willfully and flagrantly attacks this foundation by murdering another, robbing them of all they are, and all they will ever be, then that person can no longer be a part of this society. The only method that completely separates cold blooded murderers from our society is the death penalty.
As the 20th century comes to a close, it is evident that our justice system is in need of reform. This reform will shape the future of our country, and we cannot jump to quick solutions such as the elimination of the death penalty. As of now, the majority of American supports the death penalty as an effective solution of punishment.
“An eye for an eye,” is what some Americans would say concerning the death penalty. Supporters of the death penalty ask the question, “Why should I, an honest hardworking taxpayer, have to pay to support a murderer for the rest of their natural life? Why not execute them and save society the cost of their keep?” Many Americans believe that the death penalty is wrong. However, it seems obvious to some Americans that the death penalty is a just and proper way to handle convicted murderers.