Opposition to Death Penalty


The sentencing of victims to death or hanging dates back to the ancient ages when death was considered to be a solution to eradicate immoral behaviors in the society. As far back as the 18th century, the death penalty was used in 25 different crimes, which means that if the accused was found guilty, there was no hearing for his/her case. In the 10th century, Britain and many other countries embraced hanging as an absolution to eradicating characters in the society that were considered to be a pollution to the society. Consequently, Britain influenced the use of the death sentence in the United States as absolution for major crimes. The process enjoyed great support until the 1960, when the Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution declared that death penalty was a cruel and inhumane punishment, thus, should be abolished. To this end, this paper presents arguments against the use of the death penalty as an end to solving problems in the society with in-depth information on the implications that the process has on other people.

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Death Penalty Violates Human Rights

One of the basic human rights is the right to life with the criminals and the innocent considered the same and the penalty for a wrong should be in consideration of upholding the right to life. According to Hodgkinson & Schabas, a violation of the right to life occurs when a criminal or any other individual is denied his/her right to life. Everyone has the right to life, with or without the intervention of the state or federal government systems; consequently, the violation of a law(s) does not deny anyone the rights that he/she has. From a human rights perspective, the procedure of executing a criminal, the sentence for his/her crimes, and the judgment passed in the court of law have a less significant meaning as the principle right, which is life has been denied to someone that can change. In addition, sentencing a criminal to death proves that a state has failed, in its compulsion to revere, look after, and bring to action its first major role, save lives. Stack maintained that capital punishment in the United States has been attributed as an expensive, racist, arbitrary, and fallible process. The preparation of the prisoners before the sentencing is in the worst dehumanizing situations, which is in practicality torture a violation of international law.

The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution dictates that a death penalty is considered to be cruel and inhumane punishment that any criminal can be sentenced to serve. The death of a criminal no matter the crime that he/she is responsible for, they have the right to life. Moreover, there are other ways of pronouncing punishment to inmates. Zimring stated that imprisonment is a punishment enough to help eradicate immoral behaviors among the inmates. The Eighth Amendment in its implementation seeks to guarantee that the federal government does not impose high bail fees, fines, and pass cruel punishments to the inmates. As a composition of the United States Bill of Rights, the amendment provides an allowance for inmates to get a fair trial and at the same time maintain the human rights.

Humane or Inhumane

Inmates sentenced to death in the United States courts are treated in inhumane ways. Prejean talked about the life of a death sentence inmates in the prisons, where they are forced to live in uncomfortable areas and are rarely given the chance to relate with the outside world. On the day of execution, a number of methods are allowed as the suitable methods through which the death penalty can be executed. In the history of United States, the methods of death execution are lethal injection, electrocution, gas chamber, hanging, and firing squad. These methods in one way or another are inhumane affecting the victims or the kin of the victim who is executed in these methods. Garland argued that watching the execution has a great emotional effect on people who are present at the time of execution who are mostly the family and relatives of the victim.

The use of a death penalty as an ultimate process to solve cases and eradicate immoral behaviors in the society has been a debate of contention for many years. However, the killing of inmates through the aforementioned processes is not 100 percent success. There were some instances when offenders were electrocuted or injected with the lethal chemicals and did not die due to a technical error or any other reason. As a result, the inmates were returned to their cells awaiting another issuance of the death sentence. According to Guernsey, the sentencing of the inmate was that he/she was to die through a process passed by the court of state or federal government. The first attempt on the inmates life signifies their death, when they are taken to the second execution; hence, the inmate is being forced to face the same judgment another time, which is not right. In many cases, there have been executions when an innocent individual has been sentenced to death when evidence of their innocence is not proven. Schabas noted that the execution of innocent suspects in the justice system is still rampant in the current generation. Despite the rate of development of a justice system, the death penalty is irreversible and irreparable leaving the innocent dead while the criminal is in the loose among the society, which the justice system is trying to protect. Therefore, the execution does not offer a final solution to eradicating immoral traits in the society. Guernsey presented an argument where death penalty was used in ways that depict bias, racial, ethnic, and political favor offered to a section of people at the expense of others. Therefore, when the innocent are executed, and the criminals not brought to justice, the justice system loses its objective of providing enough information that implicates an inmate before a sentence is pronounced. Additionally, the sentencing for death before an inmate is pronounced innocent reflects the flaws of the justice system and the denial of rights for the innocent inmate who serves sentences that they do not deserve.

Financial Costs

The cost of a death sentence is high as compared to other cases. Hodgkinson & Schabas reported that sentencing an inmate to life imprisonment is less costly as compared to a death sentence. The costs of a death sentence rise with the progressions set in place to ensure that the innocent inmates are not wrongfully sentenced. Similarly, the investigation process takes a long duration, which results in higher costs to the state. These costs translate the taxpayers money, which could be used for the development of other systems of the state. However, even with these processes in place to ensure the innocent are spared from being wrongfully executed, a number of innocent victims are executed while the criminals go free. A comparison of the amounts spent in a death sentence and life imprisonment reveal the high amount of taxpayers money spent in the death penalty cases. Guernsey opined that as the death sentence case is being built up, the lawyers are forced to spend high amounts on gathering information, acquiring witnesses to confess on behalf or against the inmate in question, and the amounts that the federal or state governments spend in the execution of the method of choice. Even after all these processes, the innocence of an inmate may not be established leading to the execution of the inmate. In emphasizing the financial burden associated with the death penalty, Schabas provided a case of the state of California, which spent more than $4 billion in terms of capital punishment an approximation of $308 million for each execution. Additional costs on the security, legal representation, and trials amount to $184 million for each case.

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Ineffective Deterrent

The implementation and use of a death sentence in the solving of cases in the United States and other countries was seen as the absolute system of reducing the rate of criminal activities in the society. However, over the years, a death penalty has failed to achieve this objective as the methods and the processes used incite other criminal activities. Criminal deterrence is not controlled considering the criminals who have served long imprisonment. Similarly, a comparison of countries that uphold a death penalty and those that do not present an alarming distinction in the rate of criminal activities, which capital punishment is meant to reduce. Countries, which have banned death penalty, have a reduced rate of criminal activities. Similarly, the societies have devised ways of handling the immoral characters in their midst with an emphasis on the ways through which they can create an environment that fosters morality. On the contrary, countries which uphold the death penalty show increment of criminal activities with the most-reported crimes being police homicides. Criminals have a growing disinterest towards the police officers, as they tend to believe that the society and the judicial system do not have any concern for their lives.

A number of states still consider the death penalty to be an absolution for major crimes against the society and the government while other states have abolished these methods. Zimring asserted that considering these two distinctive groups of states, the states that still uphold the death sentence report an increase in criminal activities. A report compiled by Zimring from 1990 to 2012 show a gradual increase in the number of criminal activities in the states that still uphold the death penalty. The average rate difference in these states, which still practice death penalty and those that do not uphold the death penalty; vary from 25 to 40 percent with the most-affected states being New York and Kansas.

Solutions to Death Penalty

Providing a solution to a death penalty as a way of enforcing justice in the society has three aspects that are to be considered, which include the family of the victim, the family of the prosecuted, and the public. The family of the victim will always voice out their concern on what the judicial system intends to do to bring the action committed to their loved one to justice. In the cases where the victim was murdered, the family always settles for the same action done to the prosecuted. However, the judicial system might consider the implications that a death sentence has on people both those who are wronged and committed the crime. Consequently, the judicial system can help provide knowledge to each party and decide on a sentence that does not increase the problem already being suffered. When the judicial system sentences a criminal to life imprisonment with hard manual labor and other benefits denied, it avoids creating other incidences where a related case may erupt. On the other hand, the family of the prosecuted always shows concern and does not easily concur with the accusation that their loved one committed a grievous mistake. Therefore, they might commit finding the truth about their loved one before he/she is executed. Hodgkinson and Schabas state that an honest and transparent case handled to the satisfaction of both parties helps resolve a number of aftermath reactions. The court has the obligation of ensuring that the families of the prosecuted have enough information on what their family member is accused of and evidences support the accusation.

Death should not be used as a justification of wrong or a solution to a problem. Through the harsh punishments that the prosecuted can be sentenced to, the judicial system will have provided a justifiable act to the victims and the prosecuted family. The public, on the other hand, is a factor to consider on the way the judicial system handles a case. Their reaction to the death sentence or to life imprisonment is based on various factors. However, public image is vital in the development and operation of the judicial system. Their acceptance of the judicial systems forms the basic steps in eliminating the death penalty as the absolution for a criminal offense. Amidst these factors to be taken into consideration, there are potential alternative solutions that can offer the same level punishment accorded with the death penalty. A likely alternative to the death penalty is life imprisonment, which has been established to be less costly when compared to the use of the death penalty. Life sentence has more public preference and approval when compared to death penalty.


The death penalty is a system of penalty for a criminal offense that does not put into consideration the implication of the process to the victims and the public. In its effect to solve and reduce, the number of criminal activities among the public, death penalty is considered to be a trigger for homicide in many states. On the other hand, a death penalty is a violation of human rights, the Bill of Rights, and expensive process that strip the federal and state government taxpayers money, which would otherwise be invested in developable projects. Therefore, the death penalty should be abolished, and other systems of correction are used to ensure justice is served to criminals.