“I just wanna say I think killing is wrong, no matter who does it – whether it’s me, y’all, or your government.”
This is possibly the most powerful quote from the movie Dead Man Walking, which is a film based on a true story. The quote comes from the main character who is being sentenced to death for murder. The death penalty is a topic on which most people seem to have a stern opinion, but many people lack the information to back up their stance. I want to note that I’m not writing this with the intent of defending anyone; my intentions are to state a few facts and raise a few questions. I’ve spent some personal time researching the process of this legal punishment, and I have come to find that there is always much more to each story than the media wants us to know. Here’s the truth of the matter: the death penalty is not an end-all solution to crime.
The death penalty is typically thought of as being justified; we think that it’s okay because we use it to protect our innocent citizens from hard criminals. We tell ourselves that the death penalty will discourage people from violent behavior, but it has been proven time and time again that the death penalty is not actually a deterrent from crime.
One issue that we face is that we do not allow ourselves to recognize the harsh reality of what the death penalty entails. If we did, perhaps we would feel guilty – and we can’t have that. The reality is that murder is still murder. Is it really somehow less wrong to kill someone who has killed before? Many supporters of this punishment are insistent upon the fact that these offenders deserve death. We have convinced ourselves that we are letting them go as gently as possible when carrying out the deed. The lethal injection is the common way to carry out the death penalty in this day of age because it is considered to be the most humane way to kill someone. Is the death penalty made to be more palatable for the one being executed, or the ones choosing to witness the process? We’ve been led to believe that the first drug injected puts the inmate to sleep, while the other drugs stop their heart; however, there have been instances in which this has not been the case. An article published by cbsnews.com discusses Alabama’s most recent inmate executed, Christopher Eugene Brooks. Brooks’ attorneys complained that the cocktail used on Brooks had been used in other problematic situations, one of which it took the prisoner forty-three minutes to die. Another article published by cbnnews.com states that the lethal injection has been compared to being burned alive. Do you still think that it’s a humane process?
Another concern that is apparent with the death penalty is the fact that these inmates are kept on death row for an average of fifteen to twenty years. Even so, there have been cases in which the process has been even more prolonged; Tampa Bay Times published an article in 2013 discussing a prisoner in Florida who was on death row for forty years. These inmates easily spend half of their lives waiting to be punished, and in most situations, they have made significant personal changes. I’d like to encourage you to pause for a moment and think back to your mindset just five years ago. Have any of your thoughts, values, or opinions changed? The death penalty implies that humans don’t have the ability to change, which is completely hypocritical.
Let’s talk about money. Many supporters of the death penalty like to argue that it is cheaper to kill off our prisoners as opposed to keeping them locked away for the remainder of their lives, but that just isn’t true. According to deathpenalty.org, cases without the death penalty cost $740,000, while cases where the death penalty is sought cost $1.26 million.
The south is an area that is traditionally pro-life; just as we are generally a pro-life region, the south is very pro-death penalty. As someone who considers themselves to be pro-life, I think it’s important that we know the true definition. According to dictionary.com, the word pro-life is defined as the right-to-life. We throw around this word to define someone against abortion, but our society quickly loses its compassion when faced with an adult seeking a second chance.
I’m not here to defend those who do wrong, but I am here to question our motives. Why do we believe that some deaths are justified? If we think it is okay to carry out murder just because it isn’t by shooting, hanging, or dismembering the individuals, who is to say that we’re part of the good guys? Is it somehow less of a sin to murder a murderer?
The death penalty has been around for a long time, but change isn’t always a bad thing. Ultimately, the death penalty is something used with the intent of deterring folks from committing crimes; unfortunately, it just isn’t a successful deterrent. The bottom line is that we have the twisted idea that we can actively fight murder with murder. It’s a vicious cycle. Ponder this: if we kill someone who has killed another person, we still have the same amount of murderers in the world.
“What’s New.” DPIC | Death Penalty Information Center. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.
“Pro-life.” Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2016.