Capital Punishment / Position Paper

The death penalty is a cruel punishment for terrible crimes. When I first thought about it and imagined the crimes for which such a sentence can be imposed, my reaction was to support death penalty. However, thinking about this issue longer and studying related data, I came to the opposite conclusion. Despite the seemingly deterrent effect and the claims for justice, the death penalty is more likely to give rise to new cruelty.

The main arguments against capital punishment are not only life sanctity, and punishment cruelty. It is also not practical and is no longer appropriate. The potential receipt of a capital punishment verdict does not stop criminals from committing atrocities. At the same time, the crime rate can become even higher. It is also significant to take into account the imperfections and peculiarities of the existing judicial system.

The innocent are still the victims of unjust accusations, and while in prison, they still have a chance to return to life; the death is irreversible. Moreover, the justice system is still prone to racism, and prejudice is not a factor that should influence sentence. Another important aspect, which is often misunderstood, is the cost of the death penalty. It is a common misconception that another severe punishment – life imprisonment is more expensive, but cases on the death penalty are a severe burden for the state’s budget.

The use of murder as a punishment for murder creates a paradox because the state must act least aggressively. The death penalty, in turn, makes several more people murderers – those who impose a sentence and commit it. Methods of achieving justice are developing, society is becoming more humane, and as torture is inappropriate now, the death penalty is also gradually disappearing. For these reasons, I consider it essential to maintain the trend of banning the death penalty.


Supporters of the death penalty have strong arguments in favor of its use. In particular, in addition to punishment for a crime, it must have a deterrent effect. While an executed offender really cannot kill innocents (as well as a prisoner usually), execution does not serve as a warning. Moreover, the Death Penalty Information Center investigated this issue and determined the rate of killings in states with and without a death penalty. Their study covers the years from 1990 to 2018, and the results are presented in Figure 1.

Murder rates in death penalty and non-death penalty states

Note. As shown in the graph, homicide rates are higher in states where the death penalty is allowed than in those where it is prohibited (“Murder rate of death penalty,” 2018).

Given the moral arguments against the death penalty and the ineffectiveness of deterrence, it is worth returning to the issue of cost. As mentioned earlier, supporters believe that the execution will not be such an intense burden on the state budget as life imprisonment. However, calculations by various organizations and researchers have repeatedly proved that the situation is the opposite. For example, according to experts on The Balance website on finance and economics, life imprisonment is more cost-effective (Amadeo, 2021). The cost of the death penalty includes trials and appeals, detention on death row, and the cost of execution.

Data on expenses may differ among states, but the trend is similar. For example, in a court where the death penalty is possible, costs are $500,000 against a court without a potential death sentence – $33,000 in Kansas (Amadeo, 2021). As a result, on average, the execution costs $1.12 million more, and according to the latest estimates for 2018, it creates an additional burden of $3 billion compared to the maintaining prisoner (Amadeo, 2021). Thus, the state budget is spent on harsh and generally non-moral actions.

Representatives of law enforcement agencies and courts, even considering their professionalism, may sometimes be mistaken. Following the Death Penalty Information Center, 1,532 people have been executed since 1976 (“Executed but possibly innocent,” 2021). According to the same website, 185 people from 1973 to 2021 were able to prove their innocence in time and avoid execution (“Description of innocence cases,” 2021). Moreover, in some cases where the execution was implemented, there is still evidence of the innocence of the convicted person.

Among the recent examples of rehabilitation of convicts, Eddie Lee Howard – his case has been considered since 1994, and charges were dismissed only in 2021. He was convicted of murder and rape of a woman, but DNA testing proved his non-involvement (“Description of innocence cases,” 2021). Many more people were released after being imprisoned, even after a long term. For example, Robert DuBoise was dismissed 37 years later he was arrested (“Description of innocence cases,” 2021). Although these mentioned wrongly convicted people survived, they still suffered severe trauma and lost many years of life.

Cases where, despite the fact that the evidence of guilt is rather unreliable, the sentence was still put into effect are especially terrible. For example, in 2020, Walter Barton was executed convicted of stabbing 81-year-old Gladys Kuehler in 1991 (“Executed but possibly innocent,” 2021). His accusation was built on drops of blood that fell on his clothes and the testimony of an unreliable jailhouse informant. According to the prosecution, blood could only get to Barton during the murder, although taking into consideration that the victim was stabbed with a knife many times, there should be more blood. According to Barton, blood fell on him when he pulled the victim’s granddaughter from the body. Moreover, the witness from prison who testified was lying about her own convictions.

Alternatives to Capital Punishment

The most common alternatives to the death penalty are life imprisonment without and with parole. In the last case, the right of release usually appears after a certain period of imprisonment before the possibility of liberation can be considered. Life imprisonment can be a worthy alternative, as it limits the offenders and disciplines them. They are excluded from life, receive time to understand their actions, and the resulting guilt is often the worst punishment. Moreover, this option of punishment makes it easier for the victims’ families to live after the incident, as it gives certainty, and not long years of trials and painful reminders. Finally, the alternative contributes to the saving of the state budget, the funds of which can be allocated to preventive measures.

Committing murders is not normal for a person, and for this reason, there is always a high possibility that criminals who are blamed for terrible crimes are not mentally healthy. More attention should be devoted to this factor, and psychiatric treatment and imprisonment would be an alternative punishment. This option, as well as life imprisonment, eliminates additional cruelty from the perpetrators of the sentence. Moreover, being on death row is another traumatic factor, which can aggravate the condition of the criminal. Treatment, in turn, can help to realize guilt and contribute to the attempts to redeem it.

Finally, the main alternatives to punishment, particularly the death penalty, to which the state’s efforts should be directed are preventive measures. Crime is caused by instability, difficult circumstances of life, mental trauma, and similar factors. Increasing the well-being of citizens, improving schools, helping addicts to alcohol and drugs, and providing accessible psychological counseling are examples of valuable initiatives. Having extensive life opportunities and feeling support from their government, people will be less likely to engage in criminal activities. Such measures can improve the quality of life and reduce crime.


Amadeo, K. (2021). What criminal sentence costs more: Death or life in prison? The Balance. Web.

Description of innocence cases. (2021). Death Penalty Information Center. Web.

Executed but possibly innocent. (2021). Death Penalty Information Center. Web.

Murder rate of death penalty states compared to non-death penalty states. (2018). Death Penalty Information Center. Web.

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