Capital Punishment is Unfair - Essay Sample

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Harvey Mudd College
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Capital punishment has been an integral part of the American history for many centuries. Despite the fact that it is part of the American history, not all states practice it. The federal death penalty was not very active from 1964 and has been used once since 2003. Various discussions and debates have emerged in the recent years as to whether the cruel and unusual punishment should be abolished or not. Although it has been an integral part of the American legal system, capital punishment exposes many innocent people to death for the crimes that they did not commit; thus, this cruel and unfair treatment of human dignity should be abolished. This paper is going to discuss the reasons why capital punishment should be abolished with regard to the other side of the discussion as well.

Capital punishment should be abolished because of its unfair, cruel, and unusual nature. According to Allen and Clubb (2009), capital punishment was practiced several times many centuries ago. The first case to be witnessed regarding capital punishment was the execution of a European in Jamestown in 1608 a few days after the country was colonized. By the end of mid-century, over fifty people had been executed. By 18th century over 3,000 people had been executed. According to Allen and Clubb (2009), the number steadily kept increasing with time. As a consequence, the population declined steadily due to many people legally put to death. However, Allen and Clubb (2009) note that the execution was not consistency throughout the country. The executions were carried out disproportionately according to the racial, ethnic, and gender distributions. In the recent years, the author explains that the disproportionate number of people put to death have been the black people. Of course, this kind of disproportionate started in the early days in the American history. If the disproportion is compared with the other racial groups, the whites appear to be the minority of the executed (Allen & Clubb, 2009). Capital punishment is unfair and seems to be targeting certain racial group. Garland et al further conquer with Allen and Clubb, citing that the survival of the capital punishment in the United States appears both a puzzle and provocation of the basic human rights to certain racial groups.

Opponents of this argument claim that capital punishment should not be abolished citing that it is what can be used to distinctively separate the national and religious identities from other nations. While explaining the implications of the debates at the United Nations, Garland et al. (2011) argue that proponents of capital punishment in the United States believe that the procedure can help solve distinctively the American enigma. However, as Perlin (2013) states, capital punishment is associated with sanism, which is an irrational decision based on the stereotype, myth, superstition, and deindividualization. Most of the African Americans fall, victims of capital punishment and other cruel punishments because they are believed to be criminals. The fact that they are a minority group in the country makes them more vulnerable to inhumane and dehumanizing laws like capital punishment. According to Allen and Clubb (2009), over 17,000 African Americans were executed in the 18th century through the capital punishment legislation. As Perlin (2013) states, the American criminal justice system is filled with sanists who believe that the African Americans are more prone to crime than their white counterparts or any other racial group. This is a distorted notion that should not be accepted. Everyone in the country deserves to be treated with dignity and respect; thus, capital punishment should be done away with.

Capital punishment should be abolished because it does not help in the fight and eradication of crime level in the United States. No matter how many African Americans are sentenced to death because of the wrong and distorted notion held by a certain group of people in the country, crime level is not going to end or decline. Perlin (2013) states that many people are executed for the wrong reasons or for the crimes that they did not commit because they are black or incapable of defending themselves in the courts. The most affected group, according to Perlin, are the mentally disabled who are forced to accept someones fault. According to Perlin (2013), not only the judges are sanists but the lawyers, jurors, legislators, and witnesses all show the traits and characteristics associated with sanism. As a result, they inspire pretextual decisions on the innocent people and condemn them to cruel and harsh punishments that they do not deserve. The capital punishment can be executed in various ways; for instance, hanging, lethal injection, shooting, and other methods such as gas chamber and electrocution. The most widely used method is the lethal injection that has been adopted by the 32 non-abolitionist states. According to Oshinsky (2010), over 673 people have been executed through the lethal injection method since2001; another ten by electrocutions and one by shooting. However, there are no cases since 2001 that have been executed through hanging or gas chamber. As Perlin (2013) states, no one deserves to be dehumanized or discriminated based on the color of their skin or the racial background. Perlin (2013) explains that the criminal justice system especially the courts should try to search for the objective evidence of the contemporary values before they make a decision on which punishment is fair and comforts the fundamental human dignity.

Proponents of capital punishment believe that eradicating death penalty will lead to increase in crime level. They argue that upholding death penalty will make criminals to behave under the threat of death. However, this is not true since the crime rate even in the states that have abolished the capital punishment in the United States has not gone down (Bohm, 2013). According to Garland et al. (2011), despite many decades of practicing capital punishment the country is not getting any better when it comes to fighting crime. States with death penalty record the same rate of crime just like those without the death penalty. Therefore, subjecting people to lethal injection, electrocution, hanging, or shooting does not eradicate crime. In fact, capital punishment serves the interest of criminals who believe that when they die they become martyrs; thus, it should be done away with.

According to Oshinsky (2010), capital punishment needs to be abolished because it is archaic, costly, ineffective, and unjust. Allen (2009) explains that capital punishment does not aim at serving justice but instead, it twists the role of the criminal justice system to make it about racial violence, monetary costs, institutionalized revenge, and maybe emotional closure. However, all these are neither the role nor the aim of criminal justice system. Allen (2009) argues that race of victims is most likely to influence the likelihood of being charged with capital punishment. Opponents of this argument may claim that the only true justice for a victim who has been murdered is a death penalty for the offender. They argue that murderers should not be given another chance to redeem themselves through life sentencing or parole. These opponents believe that murderers cannot be rehabilitated like the rest of the criminals because of any chance that they are given they will do the same thing again. However, the criminal justice system should not be seen to be undermined by racism, false incrimination, and revenge to condemn innocent people to their death when they do not deserve it (Oshinsky, 2010). In fact, no human being has a right to take another persons life irrespective of the reasons (Kramer, 2011). As Kramer (2011) explains, every life is important and even the criminals who are sentenced to death also have the right to life. Capital punishment is just another way that the criminal justice system and the country want to play God. Right to life is a privilege provided in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that every individual has a right to life. However, capital punishment goes in contrary to this article, especially when it involves taking the life of an innocent person who has not committed the crime or did not intend to commit the crime.

In conclusion, no matter the crime that one has committed, it does not grant him/her death penalty. The death penalty was considered a powerful tool for the white supremacy in the American history, which was used to tamp down those who resisted against their regime. Therefore, it is an archaic and old system of cruel punishment that should not be tolerated in the United States today. The American justice system should move away from engaging in institutionalized revenge and being a system of violence to become a mechanism of controlled force aimed at eradicating violence and serving justice to the affected victims; therefore, capital punishment should be abolished because it does not serve the interest of the people of America.


Allen, H. W., & Clubb, J. M. (2009). Race, class, and the death penalty: Capital punishment in American history. SUNY Press.Bohm, R. M. (2013). Capital Punishment's Collateral Damage. Carolina Academic Press.Garland, D., McGowen, R., & Meranze, M. (Eds.). (2011). America's Death Penalty: Between Past and Present. NYU Press.Kramer, M. H. (2011). The ethics of capital punishment: A philosophical investigation of evil and its consequences. Oxford University Press.Oshinsky, D. M. (2010). Capital punishment on trial: Furman v. Georgia and the death penalty in modern America. Univ Pr of Kansas.Perlin, M. L. (2013). Mental disability and the death penalty: The shame of the states. Rowman & Littlefield.

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