Martin Luther King, Jr. (Ebony, 1957) when being asked the question of “Do you think God approves the death penalty for crimes like rape and murder?”, answered that: “Capital punishment is against the best judgment of modern criminology and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God”. For many centuries, capital punishment has been one of the most controversial affairs for mankind, due to the complexity of humanity, justice, and its two-sided consequences. Executions are believed to have existed around 1760 BC, with the Code of Hammurabi. However, with the change of time and humans life quality, capital punishment has shown several drawbacks that need to be dealt with. This essay covers reasons for the abolishment of the death penalty, which are evidence of racism and discrimination, degradingly negative effects on the victims’ family and issues related to human rights.
To begin with, although we are living in the age of globalization, racial discrimination in capital punishment is still apparent with various evidences. According to Mattie Elliott (Stop capital punishment, 2018), a study in North Carolina found that if the victim was white, the imposition of the death sentence to the defendants was 3.5 times more likely than in a similar circumstance but the victim was black. In addition, as claimed in Capital punishment in context, in 1990, an examination by the United States General found that in 82% of the cases they studied, those who murdered whites were more likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks. In an article by All That’s Interesting (updated 2019), the story of George Stinney Jr.- the youngest person to be executed in an electric chair when he was only fourteen, is one of the example of how discrimination used to exist in court. In the case of Geogre Stinney Jr., although he allegedly confessed the crime, there was no written record of the teen admitting to the murders. Eventually, after a 10-minute deliberation, the all-white jury accused him of first-degree murder and on the same day, they sentenced him to death by electric chair after a two-hour trial without any concrete evidence.
Humans oppose murdering, but why would we still agree with an execution, which aims at putting one’s life to an end? The death penalty might be regarded as a reimbursement for the victim and the victim’s family, but eventually what is left would still be a pain for both sides. According to Dr. Robert T. Muller (Psychology Today blog, Talking About Trauma, 2016), psychological studies have proved that the death penalty produces negative effects on families and friends of murder victims (referred to as “co-victims”). Also in his article, one University of Minnesota study found that just 2.5% of co-victims reported achieving closure as a result of capital punishment, while 20.1% said the execution did not help them heal. As John P. Kotter said in his book: “transformation is a process, not an event” (Leading change, 1996), every pain in life takes time to recover, not after one day or two, but it is a long process for anyone who suffers. From my viewpoint, I do not stand in favor of the offenders, since they have to pay for their wrongdoings, but I do not believe that taking one more life away is the proper solution for healing.
The last reason why I believe we should abolish capital punishment is that everyone has a right to live, a chance to re-do and to compensate for what they have done. Although there are murderers who are psychopaths and are willing to kill random people, executing does not mean that our community will be a safer place to live since some individuals might learn from their behaviors and become a worse threat. For the case of psychopaths, the entire killing is meant to highlight the wrong that has been done to them while at the same time punishing those responsible (Deborah Schurman-Kauflin, Psychology Today, 2012). Although this case is still in controversy, about whether psychopaths can change their behaviors or not and should they be executed for mass murdering, in a study by Dr. Rhonda Freeman (Neuroinstincts, 2013), scientists are still learning about this disorder, especially regarding treatment. According to an article by David Von Drehle (Time, 2014), a new statistical analysis stated that the rate of wrongful death sentences in the U.S. is probably much higher than experts have estimated, approximately 120 of the roughly 3,000 inmates on death row might not be guilty. In Newsweek (2014) by Pema Levy, a new study, released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one in 25 sentenced to death in the U.S is innocent, which is about 4.1 percent. That 4.1 percent did not have the chance to start over a new life or to indemnify for the victims. As humans, we are all equal and have the same right to live, even the guilty ones.
Overall, the issue of whether to abolish capital punishment or not is always controversial and requires every country to sternly reckon its impact on citizens’ life. There are different law systems in every country, while some countries are doing a great job with handling criminals, some are not. Take Norway’s prison system for example, according to Life in Norway Editorial Team (Living in Norway, 2018), the percentage of people that are sent to prison for the second sentence in Norway hovers at or below 20%, almost three times lower than in the United States where the rate is from 60 to 75%. This is because Norway focuses on relaxation and education for the prisoners, which shows that the government truly pays attention to the criminals and the victims’ rehabilitation. Also in their article, Norwegian jails attempt to mimic the outside world as much as possible, to prepare the inmates for freedom and encourage them for education. Capital punishment still has affairs of discrimination, its negative impact on the rehabilitation process and violation of human rights, therefore it should not be encouraged and other solutions such as life imprisonment and improving the education for citizens and inmates should be considered.