The Ineffectiveness of Capital Punishment
When analyzing whether or not the death penalty is an effective punishment for hardened criminals, you must look to both the financial and social cost. It is easy to calculate the financial cost but much more difficult to quantitatively equate the social cost. In this paper I will present the arguments for and against the use of capital punishment and present a means of measuring the deterrent effect of the death penalty.
The death penalty is the highest degree of punishment that can be applied in a criminal case. Some believe that execution violates our basic rights and is an inhumane practice that needs to be discontinued. According to the Legal Information Institute of Cornell, “The U.S. Supreme Court has determined that a penalty must be proportional to the crime; otherwise, the punishment violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments” (Death Penalty). The use of execution is supposed to be reserved for only the most heinous of crimes so that the punishment is proportionate to the crime. Unfortunately, there are many cases where the crime did not match the punishment and offenders had their eighth amendment violated. Historically a large number of the cases that violated constitutional rights took place in the south.
As you can easily see in Fig. 1 most executions going all the way back to 1977 have predominately taken place in the south. From the article titled Still Unfair, Still Arbitrary-But Do We Care? Samuel Gross states that “the death penalty for rape was essentially reserved for black men who were convicted of raping white women in southern states” (Gross, 518). The racial motivation for applying punishment superseded the defendants right to a punishment that was equal to that of their crime. Racially motivated sentencing has been a key arguing point for those that oppose the death penalty. From a study written about the death penalty system of Connecticut, by John J. Donohue, it is said that minority defendants within the city of Waterbury, Connecticut that were charged with killing multiple white victims were 91.2 percent likely to be sentenced to death, whereas white on white murderer only faced a .57 percent chance. “In other words, the minority defendant in Waterbury would be 160 times more likely to get a sustained death sentence than the comparable white defendant in the rest of the state” (Donohue, 1). This case not only shows the racial disparity but also the unequal application of capital punishment based on geography.
Perhaps the most common argument used in favor of the death penalty is its effectiveness as a deterrent for criminal behavior. Below I have included a chart from the Death Penalty Information Center that shows the rate of murder in states with and without capital Punishment. It is easy to see that states without capital punishment have consistently had lower murder rates when...