Opinion: Morality of the Death Penalty

I am going to start this article not with complex language trying to entice others into my viewpoint, but rather a simple exclamation: I think the death penalty is fundamentally wrong, and should be taken out of the United States’ Legal System’s arsenal of penalty.

This article comes in the shadow of one of the most important developments so far of 2015, the sentencing to death by lethal injection of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a.k.a. the Boston Bomber. This sentencing has inevitably brought back into the spotlight one of the most polarizing issues we face today, the morality of the death penalty.f079ba7eac504b0da1a1a47b307e1d19

This subject is different from many others tackled in the political sphere because it does not always fall along party lines; the response is oftentimes more so emotional than logical, and there are fierce proponents and opponents on both sides of the political spectrum.

To me, the easy side to take in this debate is actually the one opposite mine; it is very simple to say “an eye for an eye”; if someone killed an innocent person, the victim deserves revenge, and the murderer should be killed for their actions. In questioning other students as research for this article, many said things like “anyone who kills someone deserves to be killed,” and, were I a family member or friend of a Boston bombing victim, I am sure it would be hard to escape this emotional response. To me, though, the question isn’t whether they deserve death, but rather whether it is right for our government to make this decision.

At best, our legal system makes mistakes now and again; at worst it is a completely and utterly screwed up system. Since 1973, 150 people have been exonerated from death row. This statistic is terrifying for two reasons; one being that we sentenced 150 innocent men to death in the first place, and, perhaps more daunting, how many innocent men have we let through the cracks?

One of the other factors that emerges again and again is the cost of the death penalty. As of 2011, California taxpayers had spent “more than $4 billion on capital punishment in since it was reinstated in 1978, or about $308 million for each of the 13 executions carried out since then, according to a comprehensive analysis of the death penalty’s costs.” Many people that are pro-death-sentence think that their taxes shouldn’t be paying for the food and board of a murderer for the rest of their lives, but it is clear that all the issues that come up with capital punishment make the costs much higher than life in prison.

The true reason I think we should get rid of the death penalty, however, is not a question of potential innocence or costs to taxpayers, but rather a belief in what the overall goal should be of our government and penal system, and the role of our government in trying to better our society. Perhaps it is naïve to think that our society is better than this animalistic desire for revenge, but shouldn’t our government be held to a higher standard?

Jesuit priest and professor Raymond Scroth said, “Retribution is just another word for revenge, and the desire for revenge is one of the lowest human emotions — perhaps sometimes understandable, but not really a rational response to a critical situation.” It is hard to fault someone for wanting the killer of a loved one to be “paid back,” but we should not succumb to this on a judicial scale; we should rise above.

Bailey Vehslage, Arts Editor

Posted by on June 3, 2015. Filed under School News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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