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Capital Punishment

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Essay title: Capital Punishment

The death penalty was used as far back as the eighteenth century B.C. Rules and regulations regarding the death penalty have been changed around the world over time. Currently thirty-eight states in the United States allow crimes to be punished with a death sentence. This sentence is only given to those who commit heinous crimes, usually involving murder. Methods include lethal injection, electrocution, gas chambers, firing squads, and hanging. Lethal injection is most commonly used today (Death Penalty). The majority of Americans feel that capital punishment is a good idea. I however am opposed for many reasons.

Those who agree with capital punishment say it discourages crime. They believe that the fear of dying will scare them out of committing crimes. This has not been proven true. Thorsten Sellin conducted research on the topic in 1959. He compared the rates of homicide in states upholding the death penalty to those without the death penalty. He found that states with capital punishment usually did not have a lower rate than those without (Haines). In 1995, states with the death penalty averaged 5.3 murders per 100,000 people ,while states without it averaged 2.8 (Death Penalty).

Capital punishment is also very expensive. One execution in Florida costs the state $3,200,000. This is six times what it costs for life imprisonment. These costs are not in just the death itself but mostly due to endless trials. These cases require extensive investigation and expensive lawyers which add to the costs (McKenna).

This sentence has proven to be used unfairly. Racial discrimination has been documented over and over. Blacks who kill whites are sentenced to death much more often than whites who kill blacks. Over a five year period in Georgia, 20.1% of those sentenced were blacks who killed whites, while only 2.9% were whites who killed blacks. Blacks are getting harsher sentences when they are on trial but their lives are not given value when they are the victims (McKenna).

There is also discrimination based on income. The majority of those sentenced to capital punishment do not have the money for the representation they need and are forced to use court appointed counsel. Many major studies on this issue prove that defense representation in capital cases is of a much lower quality than in felony cases (McKenna).

Those with mental disabilities are discriminated against as well. Mentally ill people have been sentenced to death at a much higher rate than can be explained. One possible explanation is that jurors sentence people to death more easily if they are different from themselves (McKenna).

I think the major problem with capital punishment is the chance that someone innocent will be charged. This sentence is permanent and leaves no room for mistakes which are bound to happen. Since 1973, there have been over 120 innocent people who were sentenced to death (Death Penalty). This is highly unacceptable! No one can ever repay them for the years they sat in jail fearing their death when they did nothing wrong. Because there is always a possibility for error, we cannot come to a solution that will prevent sentencing innocent people to death besides eliminating the death penalty altogether.

I believe that everyone can change and should be given a second chance. No, we should not just forgive them and let them back out of the streets, but we should not just kill them

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