The death penalty, a cruel and irreversible punishment, must be abolished

The+death+penalty+has+been+part+of+justice+systems+throughout+the+world+for+centuries%2C+but+this+does+not+mean+that+it+is+still+acceptable+in+the+world+today%2C+writes+Assistant+Editor+Adrianna+Nehme.

Midway staff

The death penalty has been part of justice systems throughout the world for centuries, but this does not mean that it is still acceptable in the world today, writes Assistant Editor Adrianna Nehme.

Adrianna Nehme, Assistant Editor

“I’m sorry are the only words I can say that captures how I feel now and how I felt that day.” The blinds of the green room were lifted, and Brandon Bernard’s words filled the space as he lay strapped on a gurney, awaiting his execution for murder on Dec. 10, 2020. At 9:27 p.m., the blinds were lowered, and Mr. Bernard was pronounced dead. Less than 24 hours later, Alfred Bourgeois, convicted for murder, underwent this same routine, becoming the 1,529th person to be executed in the United States since 1976.

 The death penalty has been part of justice systems throughout the world for centuries, but this does not mean that it is still acceptable in the world today. The act of ending someone’s life as punishment for their actions is a cruel and ineffective way of achieving justice, and therefore, the abolishment of the death penalty is necessary.

According to the Associated Press, no scientific evidence exists to support the statement that the death penalty has a deterrent effect on crime; the death penatly solely endorses a continued cycle of violence. Mr. Bernard spent his time on death row educating other individuals and emphasizing the importance of not hanging out with the wrong crowd. He is just one example of a prisoner who was able to use the lessons he learned from his experience to guide others away from a life of crime. Sparing a criminal’s life could be beneficial in preventing further crimes, and their first-hand experiences can assist others. 

To deter crime, one must focus on addressing the root causes of criminality, not just on increasing punishment. Inequality, access to education and lack of family support are some neglected issues that, if addressed, could improve conditions in communities and the lives of people in them. Clifford R. Shaw and Henry D. McKay, social scientists at the University of Chicago, found that inner city zones of Chicago had high delinquency rates compared to outer areas of Chicago, regardless of which ethnic group lived there. They attributed this to the Social Disorganization Theory: weak social institutions such as school and family results in a weakening of the strength of social bonds. More money must therefore be spent on programs, such as family preservation programs, that are based in these inner city zones to reduce crime, especially youth violence.

Unlike other forms of punishment, the death penalty isn’t reversible; in the United States where the rate of error is high, many of the accused face the consequences of poorly conducted investigations and tainted evidence. If evidence is revealed in the future that changes the outcome of the investigation, nothing can be done to bring back an innocent individual. David Keaton, Anthony Ray Hinton and Sabrina Butler were all innocent individuals sentenced to death. Although they were exonerated years later, hundreds of other innocent people have been wrongly convicted and executed in the United States. According to a National Academy of Sciences study from 2014, at least 4.1% of defendants sentenced to death in the United States were not guilty of the crimes.  

The death penalty disproportionately affects certain groups of people such as people of color and the poor. In addition to being falsely convicted, Mr. Keaton, Mr. Hinton and Ms. Butler were people of color. Data from the Death Penalty Information Center shows how people of color have been overrepresented. In 2019, 52% of individuals on death row were Black. According to the Associated Press, after 1977, 295 Black individuals were executed for killing a white victim whereas only 21 white defendants were executed for killing a Black victim. 

According to The United Nations Human Rights Council, those who are poor have a higher chance of receiving a death sentence than the rich. The poor serve as an easy target for police; they are unable to afford a lawyer, and the provided public legal counselors are often inferior, so as a result, their defense is often weaker. Some legal aid systems also only appear during the trials, which means the defendants are interrogated without a lawyer. 

A justice system that believes in redemption and forgiveness is a far more effective and humane one than a system that prides itself in capital punishment.”

 Lisa Montgomery, Cory Johnson and Dustin Higgs will be executed before president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.  Biden pledged to pass legislation that eliminates the death penalty at the federal level. He will incentivize states to follow the federal government.

Every individual is more than the crimes they’ve committed. Considering that all human beings are capable of change, everyone should have the opportunity to improve themselves rather than having their life ended early. A justice system that believes in redemption and forgiveness is a far more effective and humane one than a system that prides itself in capital punishment. Individuals can join groups such as the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty to access further resources and help abolish the death penalty.