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Abolish the Death Penalty

By Mike Sparkman in Opinion & Politics

In light of recent events (those events being the botched execution of Clayton Lockett, convicted murderer,) I think it is time to ponder why we still use the death penalty as a method of justice. It is such a medieval, revenge-based, reactionary system, that it makes sense that it was enforced quite often during times when the “an eye for an eye” philosophy resonated within society, but ever since Gandhi proclaimed that it makes everyone blind, the death penalty has become an outdated form of justice.

Don’t get me wrong, there is no justification for Lockett’s or any murderer’s crimes, and people like Lockett should be removed from civilized society. But I am not a moral absolutist, and I don’t believe that you can objectively say that someone “deserves to die.” That may be your opinion, but you cannot reasonably use that as a reason to carry out something so drastic as the death penalty.

Prison is a more practical institution because it serves the purpose of rehabilitating inmates and effectively keeping them from harming anyone and, while there are gaping holes that desperately need fixing in the prison system, it currently is the best option available for our society.

One very common argument I hear from those who support capital punishment is that they don’t want their “hard-earned tax money keeping criminals alive in prison.” Aside from the selfishness of this statement, it is also an irrefutable fact that sending someone to prison for their entire life would cost less than killing them, with all the appeals (which are constitutionally in place, so don’t even think about getting rid of those.) So if we abolish the death penalty, we would save millions of dollars of taxpayer money, along with saving lives.

The judicial system is not absolute, there have been many instances in which a person who was later proven to be innocent was executed. This fact alone should be enough to get rid of the death penalty once and for all, yet we dismiss it, even cover it up to avoid facing the hard truth. Not to mention that many of these innocent victims of the death penalty were victims of prejudice.

George Junius Stinney Jr., of South Carolina, was falsely convicted of killing two white girls in the 1940s and executed for it. He was fourteen when he died: an African-American boy dead because of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, but maybe it doesn’t matter where or when you are convicted, because still today an unproportional amount of black people are sentenced to death for killing white people. For instance, according to, 271 black people have been executed for killing white people since 1976, while only 20 white people have been executed for killing a black person since then.

You could easily dismiss the death of Stinney by saying, “oh, but it was the ‘40s, in South Carolina, nowadays we prosecute people fairly.” Really? What about Troy Davis, a black man executed in 2011 despite an astoundingly weak prosecution based purely on sparse circumstantial evidence, against him in his murder case? His sentence can’t be overturned. He will never come back, all because of an imperfect justice system using such a permanent form of punishment.

So, if you will, take a step back and look at what we are doing: we’re paying millions to kill someone cruelly and unusually (when it is possible that they are innocent) to send a message: “thou shalt not kill,” and smugly proclaiming that we’re saving lives.

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