The topic of the necessity of capital punishment is one of the primary sources of political and social debates in the past few decades. People who continue to insist on the need of the death penalty consider it to be a justified measure against a criminal under the Constitution, as well as a more practical way of punishment. Courts of states where this measure still exists are reluctant to discuss this issue, which significantly slows down the progress towards abolishment (Barry, 2019). This essay aims to highlight the reasons why there is no place for such a severe sentence as the death penalty in modern society.
One of the major reasons to abolish capital punishment in the United States is the growing discontent regarding this practice among the population. The article by Ye et al. analyzes the public reaction to a recent ban on the death penalty in the state of Nebraska on social media. The researchers show that the primary response to this Court decision is strongly positive from many states that already banned capital punishment, and it was met with a strong endorsement from opinion leaders (Ye et al., 2018). It is essential to consider the fact that this is not a single precedent.
This critical issue causes great harm to harmony within American society, as it becomes more controversial with each passing year. The public support for capital punishment has been on the decline for the past few decades (Kort-Butler & Ray, 2018). Kort-Butler and Ray (2018) state that “the percentage of respondents who preferred the death penalty decreased five points between 2015 (55%) and 2016 (50%)” (p. 484). As this rate has shown relative stability in decline, it is safe to assume that this percentage is below 50% in 2020, meaning that there are more people against capital punishment than its supporters.
Simply put, the existence of the death penalty directly contradicts the right to life. In fact, many states that have already abolished this practice did this on the claims that it is highly unconstitutional for a government to execute its citizens. However, the remaining states continue to refuse to examine this issue due to the pressure from the pro-death penalty voters. Barry (2019) states that “according to the Supreme Court, the death penalty does not currently violate the Eighth Amendment” (p. 1551). Moreso, the glaring issue stands with the fact that capital punishment is impossible due to the combination of the Fourteenth and Eighth Amendments (Barry, 2019). Together, they do not give sufficient rights to the Court to justify the death of a citizen.
Moreover, if the moral part of the arguments against the death penalty does not appeal to a part of the audience, there is a financial factor to it as well. According to research by McFarland (2016), “the death penalty has grown to be much more expensive than life imprisonment, whether with or without parole” (p. 46). The primary source of this difference is legal fees from the process where the death penalty is a proposed punishment, as well as high-security cells specialized for death row inmates (McFarland, 2016). When added together, these costs lead to approximately $1 million difference in capital punishment vs. lifelong imprisonment (McFarland, 2016). If moral and constitutional arguments do not suffice, this purely practical one is the reason that alone should lead to the revision of the necessity of this verdict.
There are several studies that examine what types of people support the death penalty. Although many people assume that this opinion is directly linked with conservative views, Kort-Butler and Ray (2018) state that “public opinion polls do not neatly align with political preferences” (p. 475). The study by Anderson et al. (2017) shows that “a relationship exists between crime rates and individual support for the death penalty,” reinforcing the argument that the pro-death penalty stance has more connection to the location (p. 855). People who support the death penalty often perceive that the crime rates in the country are on the rise and that the government statistics are not to be trusted (Kort-Butler & Ray, 2018). This notion signifies that the primary reason for support of the death penalty is connected to the locations with high crime rates.
In conclusion, there is a particular need for American society to take a firm stand against the death penalty due to a multitude of reasons. On a scale of an entire country, the popular opinion supports the abolishment of the death penalty.
Capital punishment is a direct contradiction to the Constitution of the United States, as it violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Moreover, as it has been proven by McFarland, due to the complexity of the process, execution costs more than lifelong imprisonment. Considering both moral and practical reasons, it is clear that this practice must cease to exist in all states. Public support of executions continues to decline at a steady pace, as with every new generation, it becomes harder to convict a criminal to death row. It is necessary for the government to listen to the majority and abolish capital punishment.
Anderson, A. L., Lytle, R., & Schwadel, P. (2017). Age, period, and cohort effects on death penalty attitudes in the United States, 1974-2014. Criminology, 55(4), 833-868. Web.
Barry, K. M. (2019). The death penalty and the fundamental right to life. Boston College Law Review, 60(6), 1546-1603. Web.
Kort-Butler, L. A., & Ray, C. M. (2018). Public support for the death penalty in a red state: The distrustful, the angry, and the unsure. Punishment & Society, 21(4), 473-495. Web.
McFarland, T. (2016). The death penalty vs. life incarceration: A financial analysis. Susquehanna University Political Review, 7(4), 45-87. Web.
Ye, X., Sharag-Eldin, A., Spitzberg, B., & Wu, L. (2018). Analyzing public opinions on death penalty abolishment. Chinese Sociological Dialogue, 3(1), 53-75. Web.