3 Really Good Reasons to Abolish the Death Penalty Now

3 Really Good Reasons to Abolish the Death Penalty Now October 6, 2016

Earlier this year, Pope Francis, in reference to the Year of Mercy, released a statement urging leaders and politicians who adhere to the Catholic faith to “make a courageous and exemplary gesture” by not allowing any executions in 2016.

Since then, America has executed 8 people.

Why our country — a fully functional, first world, civil society — continues with this barbaric practice I will never understand. We are the only G7 country that still executes people, and out of the 37 counties that have yet to abolish the death penalty, we are number 5 — coming in just behind China and Iran.

All that said, recent evidence suggests that America might be moving away from its allegiance to capital punishment. A recent study from Pew Research found that opposition to the death penalty is at an all time high at 42%. Even further, the 2016 Democratic Platform calls for total abolition of the practice, a historic first.

Still, we aren’t as close to abolition as we should be. So for those of you who refuse to budget (looking at you Republicans) here’s three reasons to end the death penalty now.

It’s entirely unnecessary

The Church’s stance on the death penalty is pretty straightforward. Governments reserve the right to use it, but it should only be used if it is the only way to protect society from an unjust aggressor.  Basically, if you don’t have to kill, don’t.

2267 Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

We don’t operate on the “eye for an eye” metric anymore. Killing in return for killing isn’t justice. It’s vengeance. And the rule of law does not operate on vengeance. The central purpose of our justice system is to protect the people from danger — which we can successfully do through life imprisonment. Being that we have the means of protecting our citizens from violent criminals without having to resort execution, what justifiable reason is there to do so?

It’s financially wasteful

Here’s one for the “fiscally conservative” crowd.

The U.S. Constitution guarantees an automatic appeal to anyone given the death penalty. The expenses of housing such a prisoner in a separate cellblock, combined with court costs, attorney fees, and lethal drugs/execution expenses, costs taxpayers millions of dollars.

As a result, across the country, capital punishment has been found to be significantly more costly than life imprisonment. In fact, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, it can cost any state up to $30 million to carry out a single execution. Here are few examples:

  • In Washington, it was found that the death penalty costs, on average, $1 million more than a case where the death penalty was not sought.
  • In Kansas, defending a death penalty case cost 4 times more than a trial where the death penalty was not sought.
  • In California, the death penalty has cost taxpayers $4 billion since 1978.
  • In Maryland, there have been only 5 executions in the last 40 years, but they’ve cost taxpayers $186 million.

Surely we can find something more constructive to do with this money.

It doesn’t work

Theoretically, the death penalty is supposed to act as a deterrent to crime. In reality, however, it’s entirely ineffective.

Take Alabama, my beloved homeland for example (a place where support for the death penalty is high). Just an hour into 2016, we were already dealing with our first murder. Within two weeks, there had been 4 reported homicides. Perhaps most damning, the South has the highest murder rate in the country and the highest number of executions.

Something about that just doesn’t add up.

According to a survey of the nation’s top criminologists, 88% of experts rejected the notion that the death penalty is an effective deterrent. And should we be surprised? It is completely illogical to expect anyone depraved enough to take an innocent life to have any regard for consequence.

There are other ways to lower the murder rate that don’t involve state sanctioned killing. When considering crime as a whole, the FBI reports a handful of factors that affect the volume and frequency of crimes. These include:

  • Stability of the population
  • Family life
  • Strength of law enforcement
  • Economic status
  • Education

If the fear of death doesn’t stop murder, perhaps we should focus our efforts on increasing the quality of life for our citizens.

Bottom line: the death penalty is a wasteful, ineffective, and outdated practice that does more to serve our blood lust than actual justice. So let’s just get rid of the damn thing already.

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