To Live or Let Die
There have been many controversies in the history of the United States, but capital punishment has been one of the most contested issues in decades. Capital punishment is by definition the execution of a person convicted of committing a crime so heinous that no other punishment fits the crime. The opponents prefer life without parole as an alternative to the death penalty. However, the death penalty holds advantages for the general public over life without parole in the areas of deterrence, cost, and just punishment.
The first advantage is the deterrence of future criminals. Since the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was a legitimate punishment in 1976, crime rate in states, such as California and Texas that uphold the death penalty have decreased. According to the U.S. Justice Department, the violent crime rate in Texas has dropped over thirty percent. In addition to the decrease in crime rates, the number of death sentences being carried out has increased, instilling the fear in would-be criminals of being severely punished for their actions. On the other end of the spectrum, the U.S. Justice Department has shown that states such as Alaska and West Virginia that do not have the death penalty have had an increase in crime rates of around thirty percent. This supports the idea that the fear of being punished is not there for those criminals. Unfortunately, the death penalty is currently used so rarely that it isn t nearly as effective as it could be.
The next advantage is the cost to maintain these criminals in state or federal prisons. The price to keep a person on death row is paid by the taxpayers, which includes the victim s families. The average time on death row reported by the U.S. Department of Justice is 8 years costing approximately $60,000 per year for a total of $1.88 million. Carrying out the execution, provides more space for prisoners that are convicted of less violent crimes. Of course, the cost to maintain a Lifer appears much less in the short-term, but it is more expensive in the long-term. The U.S. Department of Justice reports show that the cost to house the life without parole prisoner is $34,200 per year and the average years in prison is fifty, which totals $3.01 million for a $1.13 million difference. By the courts sentencing criminals to life without parole, the population in the prison system increases dramatically which means more space has to be provided. In order to provide this additional space, new facilities need to be constructed that cost approximately $61.7 million. If we execute these offenders, the American tax money could be used for more useful purposes.
The last advantage is the use of just punishment of the criminals. The death penalty provides a peace of mind to the victim s families and friends by getting the criminals off the streets. The general public will be able to sleep knowing that they are safe at night. The execution of a killer is neither cruel nor unusual punishment in the view of the victim s families that will never be able to spend another holiday with the victim, while the criminals are allowed phone calls and visits from family and friends. At the same time, opposition says that life without parole keeps criminals off the streets and prevents them from committing any other crimes, but there is always the possibility of escape. The opposition, also, contends that execution is cruel and unusual punishment, but they need to think about the violent acts imposed on the victims and the missed holidays and talks that the victim s families will never again have with them. Let us not forget that thousand of victims die every year by the hands of heartless murders, and they are the ones that need to be remembered not the criminals.
On a final note, how can murder be taken seriously if the penalty isn t equally as serious? A crime, after all, is only as severe as the punishment that follows it. Ghandi said, an eye for an eye makes the world blind, but it is by exacting the highest penalty for the taking of human life that we affirm the highest value of human life, -Edward Koch.