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When a person commits a crime, we expect justice in return. The question is – how far will that justice go? Should the life be taken away from the convicted criminal? Or should he or she just spend years in isolation from society. The answer should benefit both society and bring ease to the victim and their collateral. Whether the death penalty should be legalized has created many split opinions as it has been a popular topic in public discussion. Although many in our nation would want those who committed the worst type of crimes dead and put away forever, we must better our community and consider if the” eye for an eye” mentality should be appropriate. Since the death penalty is an issue in a modern society where the justice system still inevitably makes mistakes, people need to start considering that it may only continue the cycle of violence, especially since it costs more than incarceration.
Firstly, Hammurabi’s Code is one of the oldest and earliest legal codes dating from ancient times. This code states that social justice should be “eye for an eye”, leading our ancestors to seek a way to treat others as they would be treated back. It is unfair to commit a crime without a proper consequence and true justice. Some argue that it is an old-world value that has been lost because people are too cowardly to draw blood in the name of the law. Although many might agree, most would settle on the understanding that humanity has evolved and moved towards a more peaceful approach to proper justice. This type of mentality has no place in modern society where fighting violence with violence will not prevail. No criminal justice system should involve revenge as the motive of justice. As of July 6th, 2018, there are only 53 countries that still carry out the death penalty, but every year the executions have steadily decreased (Smith, 2018). The death penalty continues the cycle of violence as said by Blasé Joseph Cupich – “When the state imposes the death penalty, it proclaims that taking one human life counterbalances the taking of another life” (Cupich, n.d.). The state should not promote violence, because it may cause some civilians to take matters into their own hands, and kill on the behalf of revenge, as it is advocated by the state.
Secondly, every criminal justice system has mistakes, and many innocent individuals serve time in prison for crimes they have never committed. One of the most famous wrongful executions in Canada would be the Wilbert Coffin Case where the death penalty was carried out on a man who was convicted of murder with little to no evidence proving he was the criminal in 1956 (Taylor, 2018). Prosecution relied heavily on circumstantial evidence as he was the last person to be in contact with the victims. Due to no physical evidence and witnesses, the Justice system wanted the case to be resolved as soon as possible. The American hunters were killed on Canadian soil, which would have given a bad name to the state as it would affect the tourism and overall the economy in the area. Wilbert was sacrificed to protect the image and name of the region in which the justice system failed. If he was rather given life in prison and later found innocent even after his served time, he would be given compensation. The money would never substitute the lost time and emotional stress, but he would still be alive and could still enjoy the rest of his life. With the death penalty, there is no way to fix the wrongs that the case had caused, “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be eager to deal out death in judgement” (Tolkien, n.d.). The death penalty should in no circumstances be legal unless the justice system is perfect and has no chance of any mistakes or wrongful convictions.
Lastly, death penalty does not benefit the government and the state financially. Cases without the death penalty are estimated to cost about $750,000, whereas the death penalty is predicted to cost about 1.26 million (Costs of the Death Penalty , n.d.). There are many examples that prove that the execution of a guilty individual does not benefit the community, as the money spent on death penalties can benefit the surrounding community in more ways by having it spent on parks, roads, schools etc. Studies by a Seattle university show that Washington State spends an average of $1 million more on death penalty cases than similar cases where it was not sought (Costs of the Death Penalty , n.d.). The costs are about $3.07 million to perform an execution, while a case without the death penalty would be about $2.01 million (Costs of the Death Penalty , n.d.). In California, the death penalty has totaled over $4 billion since 1978, and it said that if the Governor commuted the sentences of those remaining on death row to life without parole, it would result in an immediate reduction of $170 million per year (Costs of the Death Penalty , n.d.). In the United States, a median elementary school that can hold 624 students costs about $16 million (20th Annual School Construction Report , 2015). If the $170 million was used on the infrastructure of schools in California, 11 more schools would be built every year, or 6,864 more kids would be educated annually. Execution is simply not cost-effective, and the resources should rather be used to better the community. The problem should be resolved at its core: investing in mental health, anger management, and education. A rehabilitative approach to our justice system could be a better alternative rather punitive. Also, resolving the poverty issues that are highly present in countries such as the United States of America would highly benefit and lower the crime rate.
In conclusion, the death penalty is ineffective and continues the cycle of violence. The eye for an eye mentality would turn our society into a barbaric culture and is not the type of civilization humanity should strive for. Presently, our criminal justice systems is flawed and many innocent people are found guilty; no person should be killed for something they never committed. The death penalty does not benefit the community, rather the tax money is spent on executions instead of the betterment of our society. Humanity evolves, and the old ways of governing states are progressing, thus the eye for an eye mentality should be left behind – especially in our modern age of today.
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