In this world, terrible crimes are being committed daily, the harshest of punishments for a deadly crime is the controversial method of execution; the death penalty. Many people believe that criminals that commit such a crime deserves to be executed; an eye for an eye. While it may seem a fitting sentence, the system is flawed. The following essay will debate the pros and cons of capital punishment, discussing issues of morals, innocence, deterrence, the cost and retribution. One of the main issues that a lot of people would have is: "What if the criminal were really innocent"? There is considerable evidence that many mistakes have been made in sentencing people to death. Take for instance the true short story The Firing Squad by Colin McDougall, the Canadian military hierarchy needed to make a point to all military personnel that going absent without leave was something to not even consider, to make their point a young AWOL soldier was put before the firing squad for a crime he didn't commit.
Since 1973, 108 people within the United States have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence; the latest was John Thompson released May 9 th 2003. During the same period of time over 1000 people have been executed, this means that for every 7 people executed there is one person on death row that is innocent. In the film Dead Man Walking the condemned man Mathew Poncelet mentioned that there were only poor people on death row: "No never find no rich folk on death row" (Poncelet, Dead Man Walking) Although Poncelet confessed in the end to the crime, he did make a valid point. The jury could be biased on looking upon a person that came from a poor background, coming to the conclusion that they must be guilty, and therefore condemning an innocent man. Poncelets comment was true, there are no rich people on death row, they have the funds to be able to pay for good lawyer guilty or not, unlike Poncelets lawyer whose previous background was in tax. One of the ways that has helped to reduce the death of an innocent is through the aid of DNA testing, this has helped considerably.
DNA testing became available in the early 1990 s and if introduced earlier could have saved many more lives. In America the idea that the death penalty is a deterrent has been in doubt for some time. The average time spent on death row today is around 11 years. Over the past few years there have been less and less executions due to the amount of appeals and retrials, therefore where is the deterrence. In 1965 Great Britain held its last execution by hanging. The average time spent in incarceration in a British prison for someone who was facing the death penalty was only 8 weeks, with only 1 appeal allowed within that time.
When the death penalty was abolished the crimes for murder went up by 125% within the next 4 years; crimes that would have attracted the death penalty. If the state wants the death penalty to be seen as a deterrent then it should be made a deterrent; cutting back on the amount of years a prisoner can stay on death row, and by cutting back on the amount of appeals a prisoner can make. The thought would be that to incarcerate a man for life with no parole would cost more than to execute a man, but it doesn't. A man that is thought to warrant a death penalty is treated differently right from the start, and these cases are far more expensive regardless of their final outcome. Death penalty trials are more expensive than ordinary murder trials; they entail more pre-trail preparation time, more attorneys, longer jury selection, DNA testing and so on and so forth.
The trials are 3 to 5 times longer, and the defendant is less likely to plead guilty to avoid a trial if there is a chance of being executed. Considering the small percentage of executions that happen today on death row, these expenses are a burden on the justice system and on society. Some county governments have neared bankruptcy to fund their capital trials, even going to the extent of cutting back on police services to pay for the costs. For a 50 year life sentence with no parole it would cost around $800, 000, to execute a man it would cost from $2. 16 million to $3.
2 million. The millions of dollars squandered on executing prisoners do nothing to keep our streets safe, and are an affront to every under funded measure that can actually make a difference, such as community policing, drug rehabilitation programs. As the death row population continues to increase so does the overall cost of capital punishment. In the short story The Firing Squad, Captain Adams had moral issues in being the executer; he was forced by a society (the military) to execute a man for a crime he didn't commit.
The young private that was to be executed believed in faith, this helped him through this dilemma, but the Captain had a battle between moral obligations to himself and to the military, he chose eventually to be honest to himself and refused the execution. These morals should be taught to us at an early age by piers, usually those not taught well are the ones that get into trouble later in life. Mathew Poncelet's mother knew that her son would sooner or later get into trouble "I always new he was bad" (Mrs Poncelet, Dead Man Walking) she confessed to the nun. By the age of 12 he was drinking whiskey with his father, he was a racist and discriminated against people who had little intelligence, which was ironic seeing that Poncelet himself wasn't bright. Idealistically, if brought up decently without bad influences there would not be much cause for concern; morally we are taught in our society what is good and bad. Most people have faith of some kind, and within that faith the taking of a life is forbidden.
Just because one mans morals have fallen it doesn't mean that the state has the right to take revenge by committing the same crime. The state doesn't rape a criminal because the criminal has raped, so why does the state murder the murderer. Lex talion is retribution would probably be the first thing on a family members mind when losing a loved one by the hands of a murderer, but is it divine retribution. In the movie Dead Man Walking Mathew Poncelet confessed to rape and murder hoping that: "My death would give them parents some relief" (Mathew Poncelet, Dead Man Walking) The film portrayed the continuing pain and torture and hatred of Mathew Poncelet, calling him: "A monster" (Earl Delacroix) and you can't help feel their anguish, rage and hopelessness. For the Percy family Mathew Poncelet's execution was a divine retribution, it consumed their lives affecting their relationship with their youngest daughter, there was no other punishment that these people would accept.
In the Delacroix family the mother accepts her son's death, but the father doesn't, even after the death of Mathew he felt no better, he didn't find the closure or satisfaction from the execution that he thought he would, realizing that he had to work on himself to find any inner peace. This is often the case with victim's families; the death of the prisoner is finality, many do not find the closure that they thought they would get, and two wrongs don't make a right. Some people are pro capital punishment and some are against, many are on the wall, agreeing with different issues from both sides. I am one of the many. I believe in justice but not at the expense of an innocent man. I believe in morals and standards, and putting more money within the service to help cut down crime, instead of the continuing growing expense of capital punishment.
Capital punishment would be a good deterrent if the time on death row was cut down, which in turn would cut down the cost. This is an outside view, with no real perspective, just views, if anything happened to one of my own my views would probably change.