In this paper, I will be arguing for the following position that the death penalty should be abolished for all crimes in the United States as it is not a proven deterrent, it is not cost effective and there is a chance an innocent person could be out to death. The capital punishment for all crimes should be a life sentence in prison as it deters, it’s a cheaper option and it would save innocent lives.
I think that some of the best arguments for my position should start off with the basis that the death penalty is not a proven deterrent. There is no plausible evidence that the death penalty is a greater threat to criminals than a life sentence behind bars. There have been cases where criminals have admitted they would rather die than live in a maximum security prison until the end. The ever present danger in jail is constantly alive, you have an ongoing everyday fear of rape and abuse around every corner. The isolation of the cells and possibility of a clash with a cellmate, if you have one, can be extremely stressful. It is not a life anyone would choose for themselves.
The next argument for my position is the overwhelming cost from trial to the end of a prisoner’s sentence in regards to a death penalty sentence versus a life in prison sentence. The Death Penalty Information Center states the United States of America spent and extra $1.6 billion on capital trials between 1982 and 1997. The states of New Jersey and New York have gotten rid of the death penalty altogether. New Jersey spent $253 million dollars over a twenty five year period and never executed a single inmate (deathpenaltyinfo.org). New York spent $170 million over a course of just a nine year period and also had zero executions (deathpenaltyinfo, reports). Both states came to realize the death penalty was far too expensive to be a continued feasible option. From a Utilitarian standpoint the expense alone would make it not the best option for the whole of the group or the country.
My last argument is for the innocent people who have been put to death over the years. Mistakes cannot be avoided and since 1973 the number of inmates that have been exonerated for their crimes is 138 (handout, death penalty). Being accused of a crime when you are innocent is psychologically damaging enough; add a death penalty sentence on to that and the innocent person’s life has just become a living hell. If an innocent person is sentenced for a crime and had a life sentence then at least there is some hope of having the truth set them free at some point, a death sentence is harder and more costly to overturn. Not only the cost but a person on death row spends on average twenty to twenty four hours in a cell in total isolation, if you are innocent it only adds to the torture endured.
However, there are those who disagree with my position and challenge it by raising arguments of their own. Some of their best arguments are first that the punishment must fit the crime (handout, death penalty). Meaning if...