The Intellectual Activist
An Objectivist Review
A New Revolution; Goodbye Death Penalty
Categories: Finding a Voice

A death penalty is a subject that has stirred a lot of debate across the globe. This can be attributed to the increasing awareness of human rights and the implications this capital punishment has not only on the individual but the society at large. It is so saddening that some states still practice this heinous punishment which some lawyers and correctional facilities workers term as first-degree murder. According to a research conducted by Cornell Law School, 31 out of the 50 states in the United States have still retained the death penalty in their correctional systems. However, there has been a staggering decrease in the number of executions carried out in these states. In the last decade, there was a record of 26 states out of the 31 carrying out executions. Later on in 2014, the number dropped even further to only 7 states actually carrying out the executions.

Modes of Executions

The methods employed during execution differ from state to state. Some of the common ones include:

  • Hanging – This method is mostly practiced by New Hampshire, Washington, and Delaware.
  • Shooting – Applies in Utah and Oklahoma.
  • Lethal Injection – Practiced across all the states that still practice this capital punishment. In most cases, it is used in place of electrocution.
  • Electrocution – Used in Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Alabama, Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

Compelling Reasons why Death Penalty should be scrapped out of the Judicial System

The whirling storm that has struck the capital penalty is not without reason. Human Rights activists and lawyers have a good cause for their fight. Some of these driving forces include:

1. Damages Incurred by Prison Workers

For a long time, no one gave much thought to the effect the execution experience has on the executors of the punishment. This is, however, changing very steadily. The society is taking note of the huge toll carrying out an execution, regardless of it being legal, takes on the prison wardens and other workers. Those executors, chaplains in whom the prisoners confide in and also the wardens go through a lot of psychological torture. Many have been reported to suffer from distresses like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As a result, some of the workers end up being alcoholics; others quit their jobs and even go as far as committing suicide. Drawing from the confessions made by some of the retired wardens and executioners, carrying out an execution is definitely a tormenting experience that no one should be put through.

Donald Cabana, the former warden at Mississippi State Penitentiary, states in his book that “There is no commonplace about walking a healthy young man to a room, strapping him into a chair, and coldly methodically killing him.” Correctional facilities workers are human beings just like any other and as such, their well-being must also be prioritized in the society.

2. Wrongful Convictions

There have been a dozen of cases where people are wrongfully convicted then released from prison later after their innocence has been proven. Consider a case where the wrongfully convicted fellow was already executed. This case is irredeemable. The capital penalty denies the convict a chance to clear their name and enjoy the freedom they have been deprived of. It is, therefore, more reasonable and humane to have these convicts detained in prison as they await their fate. Executing a convict who was wrongfully accused has a great impact on not only their loved ones but also the executors. According to a research conducted by the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, 156 wrongfully convicted fellows have been exonerated from death executions since 1973 since they were found innocent. Wrongful convictions can happen to anyone including you or your loved ones due to reasons like mistaken identity, false witness, faulty tests and other reasons. In this manner, many innocent people have been killed; a situation which is unacceptable in this day and age.

As Jerry Givens, a retired Executioner at Virginia Department of Corrections correctly puts it; the one who performs the execution suffers more as compared to the one who sentences a person to be executed then later says that the person was innocent. Yet again, we burden the prison workers.

3. Racial Bias

Race affects the judicial system, especially the death penalty, more than we would like to admit despite having sophisticated death statutes. The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty categorically documents that race has been a key determinant in the death penalty over the years. More than 60 percent of the people in prison are people of ‘color’ and serve longer terms in comparison to their white counterparts which eventuate to an even sadder fact where they are unequally sentenced to death. The prejudices and biases that various races face in their day to day lives affect them even in court as the verdict given is largely dependent on their race. While the law clearly forbids any sort of discrimination based on race while delivering justice a choosing a jury, this is a scenario that is still happening a lot in many states in the United States. Additionally, studies have shown that the law does not apply equally when the victim is African American or Hispanic and when the victim is fully American.

Any country that takes pride in equality under the law and protection for all its citizens must distance itself from the death penalty by all means necessary.

4. Cost Effectiveness

This may come as a surprise to many but death sentences actually cost a lot of money that could be otherwise put to more constructive use. According to the most recent research conducted on the issue in the year 2015, Washington was shown to be spending approximately $1million on death penalty cases while California spends $4 million on the same. This is a relatively large amount that could be put into better usage that could, in turn, reduce crime in the society. In a bid to reduce the number of criminals in the country, the funds could be used to educate younger children. Research has continually shown that children who are educated at a tender age are less likely to turn out as criminals. This goes a long way in improving the literacy levels in the country and also serves the posterity. The funds could also be used to help pay for those who are legible to graduate after high school but lack the funds to do so. A common scenario as well is that most students who fail to graduate from high school turn out to be criminals due to frustration and other reasons.

The money could also be channeled towards mass sensitization and community-based programs that illuminate the youth on the dangers of getting involved in gang-related activities and offering them alternatives such as entrepreneurship. There are also many cases of people who commit crimes while not in a stable state of the mind. The funds used in a death penalty could also be invested in mental health services, especially for juveniles. Studies have proven it to work effectively and thus reduce the crime rate. Finally, the money could also be used in campaigns against drug and substance abuse and also rehabilitation facilities for those already affected. This is because alcohol and drug abuse have proved to be a significant contributor to criminal activities. All these five ways not only reduce criminal activities but also contribute largely to creating a better society that is conducive for better living and for posterity purposes.

Paradigm Shift

In the recent past, the capital punishment has faced deep scrutiny from various players in the country. This ranges from lawyers to politicians to human rights activists, the normal citizen and other stakeholders in the society. This can be attributed to the fact that the reasons behind death penalty are no longer withstanding. The justifications for the punishment are slowly dwindling and it cannot hold for much longer. The whole point of the punishment was to provide justice and reduce criminal activities. This has not been the case with regard to death penalties. They have only served to bring more harm than good and many people are determined to go the distance to ensure that this changes as soon as possible.

As the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day and so is this process. The most important thing is the determination and the zeal these stakeholders have to eliminate this heinous act. The process has already begun in some states and positive results have been seen to come with it. The money that the government would have otherwise spent in this punishment has been channeled to better usage which has seen crime rate reduce drastically in some states like New York where at the moment they are recording close to 1900 fewer murder cases per year.

It is therefore paramount that everyone put their cultural, religious, political or racial differences aside and forges ahead in the fight against death penalties for the sake of a better and more progressive society.

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