Murder. The Punishment: Death?!
The death penalty, for some odd reason, has been a standard practice in American history. The penalty itself is the act of punishing the crime of murder (in most cases, but occasionally, treason) by murdering someone. The hypocritical act was brought into America by the English settlers, as it had been a sort of public forum for them. However, in 1834, Pennsylvania became the first state to stop putting it in public and put it behind closed prison doors. Michigan would later follow suit.
But the act itself seems to be a staple in American law and something that won't going away. To the general person, the death penalty is viewed as that scary consequence and something that is completely fair. But is it really fair? Is this punishment by hypocrisy really fair? What about racially fair?
The answer is no.
Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, there have been a total of 82 people taken off of death row because it was found that they were wrongly put on there. So we must ask ourselves, if a statistic like that, which would result in 1 out of every 7 being wrongfully tried, what are the chances of even more of those people never having their appeals heard and being killed? Not only that, but we also must notice the lesson that the death penalty shows us. Think of the children who first hear of it. How can they make sense of murder being punished by murder? Also, the death penalty puts out the view that it's ok for murder to be a solution to the hardest of decisions. As a child, one must wonder how they view this.
Outside of the moral realm, the death penalty has also shown itself to be more costly than a life sentence. A life sentence, on average, costs the state, and the taxpayer, $500,000. However, the much more costly death sentence, which requires maxim security and a legal counsel, can cost up to $2,000,000 per execution. This can be a heavy burden on any budget, especially as much as some judges hand them out (Judge Sabo in Pennsylvania, for example).
The idea that the death penalty could be unfair is rarely ever asked. Nobody would even think that a black man is 4 times more likely to get the death sentence for killing a white man than a white person would for killing a black person. You wouldn't think that, but it's true. The fact is, a "jury of peers" is a radical idea. How are we supposed to define "peers?" To some, a black man with a predominantly white jury has nothing to complain about, since some don't think race matters. But it's been proven that race does matter. Americans are typically biased against another race. So a jury of peers would have to include race in the definition. Deeper, we see that states like Texas and Pennsylvania have been notorious for executing handicapped and mentally ill individuals. How should a "jury of peers" be treated in that regard? Surely you cannot expect a group of the mentally ill to be a legitimate jury for another mentally ill person. So maybe then, we should do the logical thing and outlaw executing the mentally ill? Or would that put to much of a burden on the Grim Reaper Judges of America? Putting race and physical/mental capacity aside, there are so many more things to consider: sex, religion, orientation, social class. The list is endless, but we can all be certain that no matter the moral/economic truth of the death penalty, it is definitely in need of a reform. As the great Mumia Abu-Jamal said, "Life on... death row is a blacker one."
As Abu-Jamal said clearly, life on death row is a black one. What's death row life truly like? Living day to day, knowing that your murder is approaching soon is far worse of a fate than killing in cold blood. In fact, some prisoners ask for it early. Oddly enough though, around 80% of these volunteers are white. Aside from that though, the profound physical effects are horrendous. Many prisons around the country have been guilty of prisoner abuse but it seems to be an issue that is ignore by the media. Some feel that these prisoners have no rights, or for that matter, no basic rights that are guaranteed in most legal constitutions and religious scripts. Many report all too thorough body/cavity searches for non-contact visits. Why is that necessary for a non-contact visit that lives both people separated by shatter proof plexi-glass? So not only the death sentence needs to be reformed in that regards, but also most life sentences.
The life sentence, in the opinion of many on the anti-death penalty squad, seems to be the greater punishment. We can find a perfect example of this with the recent trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the famed "20th September 11 hijacker." In the Muslim faith (and most faiths for that matter, though it's ignored), it is said that martyrs will be rewarded with 72 virgins once they reach the gates of Heaven. Moussaoui was given the life sentence because the jury obviously realized that the death penalty would reward him! Also, imagine what would be worse of a punishment: staying locked up in a small, bare, cold cell for awhile, until the person is about to go mad, and then executed (sometimes willingly) or staying in that cell for the rest of your natural life? The latter sounds far more punishing.
The death penalty in the United States of America is a horrible thing. Not only does it violate Jesus teaching of "Turn the other cheek" but it also is a hypocritical act and one that is questionably racist. Our society and our world can only better itself by eliminating such acts as they have proven to not stop crime in any sorts (in fact, death penalty states have higher crime rates than non-death penalty states). Social justice can only be reached through activism and understanding, not murder.