By: Ruth Woldemedhine ‘21
I don’t believe in the death penalty for a plethora of reasons. The detriment of criminal activity does not deter crime any more effectively then going to prison, as there is not any scientific evidence proving it does. If someone commits a crime that ‘deserves’ the death penalty, many people will still commit the horrid crime.
It is a contradiction in and of itself, as it models the behavior it is seeking to prevent. The lesson of the death penalty says that killing is acceptable, if necessary and as long as the government is doing the killing. Its answer to violence is counter-violence. In addition, the death penalty is irreversible and an absolute judgment.
Despite the obvious contradictions of the death penalty, the main reason I don’t believe in the death penalty lies behind the lack of justice in a justice system that consistently persecutes minorities.
Thus far, twenty states have made the death penalty illegal, but Colorado isn’t one of them. There are currently three men on death row, in Colorado, right now. However, senators Angela Williams and Julie Gonzales introduced a bill for the abolishment of the death penalty in Colorado, but it failed.
The criminal justice system holds implicit bias in race and inequity in socioeconomic status, which further contributes to racial disparities at every level up to capital punishment. The Sentencing Project found that, “Today, people of color make up 37% of the U.S. population but 67% of the prison population.”
In addition, black people are more likely to be convicted and receive stiff sentences, and they are six times more likely than a white man to be incarcerated. Meanwhile, Hispanic men are twice as likely to be incarcerated as non-Hispanic whit men. (Sentencing Project).
Rates of recidivism, which is the likelihood of a convicted felon to reoffend, are also higher in minority communities, in part due to a lack of opportunity for persons of color with a criminal record to enter back into the workforce.
The U.S. General Accounting Office, Death Penalty Sentencing has found that from 1976 to October 29 of 2018, the execution of a white defendant with a black victim is 82% less than the execution of a black defendant with a white victim.
In the state of Washington, jurors are three times more likely to recommend a death sentence for a black defendant than for a white defendant in a similar case. (Prof. K. Beckett, Univ. of Washington, 2014). In fact, Washington’s Supreme Court struck down the death penalty after finding it arbitrary and racially biased.
According to Pierce and Radelet of the Louisiana Law Review in 2011, the odds of capital punishment of a white victim is 97% higher than a black victim, suggesting that the life of a white person is more important than the life of a black person.
In addition to a prominent injustice laid in the justice system, accused individuals who are coming from a lower socioeconomic status are more likely to get the death penalty because they lack the finances to seek great and powerful defense attorneys. They don’t have the money to pay for good legal defense.
The obvious injustices laid in the systems as well as the cost of the death penalty far outweighs the cost of life in prison, which is a more suitable punishment anyways. Only one out of nine of those in death penalty actually end up receiving it. The cost of the death penalty is unnecessary when spending life is cheaper.
I ask you to reflect on the inhumane and lack of usefulness for the death penalty through the reflection of a quote by Amnesty International, which reads:
“The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice. It violates the right to life…It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. There can never be any justification for torture or for cruel treatment.“
We shouldn’t leave it up to states to decide whether or not the death penalty should be illegal, as much of the evidence points towards the ineffectiveness, as it is overpriced and targets minorities.