The death penalty is an immoral and ineffective policy. In this paper I will show that the death penalty is ineffective and immoral. I will prove that it is ineffective by showing that it has been imposed on innocent people, targets racial minorities, and does not deter crime. In addition, I will prove that it is an immoral practice.
The death penalty has been imposed on innocent people in the past. Researchers James Liebman and Jeffry Fagan examined death penalty cases in a time period of twenty-two years and found that most of the cases were not conducted correctly, and that many of the defendants were innocent. Of the “eighty-two percent of defendants with death sentences that were overturned by state appellate courts. . .7% were found to be innocent of the capital crime charged” (Schmalleger). The innocence of some of the defendants convicted of a capital crime proves the fallibility of the juries which convicted them.
Juries impose their racial prejudices when finding a defendant guilty or innocent. This is evident in the ratio of African Americans and Caucasian Americans in the population, compared to the ration of them convicted with the death penalty. African Americans compose of twelve percent of the population of the United States, and they compose of forty-two percent of the number of current people on death row. Moreover, “in almost every death penalty [of a black person], the race of the victim is white”, whereas “[since 1972] only one [death penalty] has involved a white defendant for the murder of a black person” (Schmalleger). These statistics clearly indicate that juries impose their racial prejudices on defendants.
Crime rates do not deter in states with the death penalty. Many death penalty apologists claim that the imposition of the death penalty deters people from committing violent crimes. However, studies have shown that homicides in some states with the death penalty are, shockingly, higher than those without it. Moreover, it is also a financial burden to impose the death penalty on people. It costs more to impose the death penalty on someone than it does to confine them to prison for life.
The concept of the death penalty is immoral in itself, for it returns a wrong for a wrong. The wrongness or evil of an action is not affected when imposed on someone who committed a wrong in the past. This is because the wrongness of an action exists within the action itself, and not the circumstances in which the action is committed. The reason that the state gets involved when someone does some sort of wrong is because that wrong has somehow disturbed the order of society. And people are jailed or imprisoned to prevent them from further disturbing the order of society. But returning the wrong (e.g. the death penalty) does not repair the order that existed prior to the first wrong, but only disturbs it more. This is because retribution (e.g. imposing the death penalty on someone who murdered someone) is not a good and if it were the case that it is a good then someone should be able to enact revenge on someone who wronged them in the past. For example, if it were the case that retribution is good then a man should be able to steal from a thief who stole from him in the first place. Another example is someone raping an individual who raped them prior to the first incident. These two examples clearly show that it is evidently untrue that retribution is good. Thus, the death penalty is not beneficial to society, and it is also immoral.
In this paper I have showed that the death penalty is both ineffective and immoral. It is ineffective in that it does not deter crime, it is imposed on innocent people, and targets racial minorities. It is immoral because it returns a wrong for a wrong, and a wrong is never right, evidently. Therefore, the death penalty is an immoral and ineffective practice.
Schmalleger, Frank. Criminology. 2nd. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, 2011.