Death Penalty Is Not A Deterrent To Violent Crime

To The Reader’s Forum:

There is no good reason for the death penalty anywhere in the United States. Pundits favoring what is nothing more than state-sponsored killing have continued to mistakenly suggest a death penalty is a deterrent to violent crime by also claiming that violent crime is on the rise. You can’t have it both ways. That said, the death penalty is not a deterrent to violent crime and here’s why.

There is no plausible evidence to suggest the death penalty is a deterrent. First, society provides for degrees of murder and violent crimes, which essentially mitigates a death penalty so that it exists only for the few, most egregious circumstances. Second, seeking a death penalty is not uniform as it is left to certain prosecutions, juries and judges to impose it. Third, a Google search provides unsubstantiated arguments for a death penalty, but no pro-death penalty organizations, whereas there are numerous organizations, both state and national, that have anti-death penalty evidence on their side – such as Death Penalty Information Center, FBI Uniform Crime Reports, Death Penalty Focus, ACLU, National Association of Mental Illness, etc..

Practically speaking, the evidence against a death penalty is that death is considered legally/morally cruel and unusual punishment; violent crime rates are way down since 1990; death penalties have been based on irreversible, wrongful convictions; many criminals often kill themselves or are killed before they can be arrested and tried; the budgetary cost of death is higher than imprisonment; states without death penalties have lower murder rates; states with the most or greatest mass shootings all have a death penalty on the books; the vast majority of death penalty convictions are reversed because of inadequate defense; people with mental illness, who can’t defend themselves, have been executed; a far greater percentage of people of color than their percentage of population are executed, which shows race, place and economics are illegitimate factors; prisoners pose no threat to society; over two-thirds of nations ban capital punishment and only 27 US states have it on the books.

One can argue against the evidence, using emotion as a basis, but that does not make a viable case for the death penalty as a deterrent of violent crime. There is simply no way to make a death penalty anything but arbitrary, unfair and unjust and not a deterrent to violent crime. I believe we should ban it universally.

Paul L. Demler



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