The death penalty. A kind of punishment that dates back to even the earliest of civilizations.  

In the modern era, this cruel and outdated punishment has no place, for reasons we will present in this editorial.

One of the leading legal arguments against the death penalty is that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, putting it in violation of not only the Constitution but also The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. According to the Constitution, Amendment VIII, “Excessive bail shall not be required… nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”  And as written in The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 5, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”  

The death penalty very clearly constitutes cruel punishment.  Life is a right that every person is born with and should not have taken from them, no matter what they have done.

At the heart of the argument against the death penalty is a short yet complicated question: Is it just?  The whole idea of the death penalty is often driven by the idea that criminals need to “pay for their crimes” and that they “deserve to die.” The argument against this idea is stated perfectly by lawyer Bryan Stevenson, a fierce opponent of the death penalty, who estimates that he has gotten over 200 incarcerated civilians off death row.  He says,“The question is not whether someone deserves to die but rather do we have the right to kill them?”  His statement is one that has been echoed by many others who stand against the death penalty, “We should not take what we cannot give back.”

Death row criminals often commit horrendous crimes which leave the populace wanting revenge for those hurt. However, justice and revenge are two very different ideas. As Michael Sandel writes in Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? “We must first separate our human desire for revenge as it clouds our judgement, and if we do not disregard it, we can never hope to attain true justice.”  Because, if looked at logically, that’s what the death penalty is.  Murder.  Government sanctioned murder, but murder nonetheless.  

The San Francisco Chronicle stated that “Whatever your feelings are toward the death penalty, one thing that most people will never know is the pain experienced when a family member is brutally tortured and murdered.”  A widespread argument for which people who believe that the death penalty is right is how it offers closure to the victim’s family members. To counter this, USA Today states that “The death penalty also is something else—a sad reminder of how our justice system typically offers punishment instead of healing for the survivors of violent crimes.”

But here’s a question we have to examine for any controversial practice, a question you could argue that decides the practice’s outcome and future: Does it work?  After all, that’s all that really matters.  Because if this practice works, then that’s a reason to keep doing it.

So, does the death penalty work?  Is it an effective deterrent, does it make criminals think before acting? No. A poll of criminologists done in 2008 by Professor Michael Radelet and Traci Lacock (University of Colorado) showed that 88.2% of criminologists do not believe that the death penalty is an effective deterrent.  

Race can have an impact on your sentence which it should not have under any circumstance. A small effect such as listing a person’s race can have a major impact on the jury’s decisions which it should have never had.  

The death penalty. It has been the center of an immense amount of controversy over the years but as we can see ultimately there is a considerable amount of evidence against it. Though some may say that the death penalty provides many things such as closure it has over the years been proven ineffective, against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, morally wrong, and racially  biased.