The execution of Troy Davis on September 21st has fueled a lot of discussion on the death penalty in recent days. Of course there are the extremists who call for the abolition of the death penalty all together. There are the moderates who believe that the death penalty needs some tweaking, like more appeal opportunities, longer death row time, etc. And then there are the hooligans who think Troy Davis was only convicted because he was a black man who killed a white man.
In evaluating the death penalty, there are several aspects that one must take into consideration. First and foremost, the death penalty is NOT a deterrent for crime. It is a punishment for committing a crime. The death penalty, like many other foundations of America, is based on Biblical values. And in actuality, the death penalty has become so humane, that it is no longer feared. Criminals are lucky that they aren’t executed in the same fashion by which they took a life.
Death row is often times considered to be a “second punishment” in addition to the actual execution. But how is this any different from a life sentence? And isn’t it a bit hypocritical to say that jail time is punishment, when the same groups are extending the length of time in jail by appeals and stays and retrials? Craig Haney, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz said, “People on death row live under the threat of death, which is of course an extraordinary psychological trauma, and they are denied most of the ways that people make life in prison more tolerable: meaningful social activity,
programming of any kind, activities,” but again, prison is a punishment so why must it be tolerable, or comfortable, or enjoyable? The conditions are pretty nice. All states offer television and a limited number of states offer educational training and group recreation time.
Some interesting facts about the death penalty, for those who are so against it:
- On average, 13 years elapses between the time a death sentence is handed down
and carried out. (1)
- In Kentucky, more people on death row have died of natural causes than have been executed in the last 30 years. (1)
- Almost all people facing the death penalty cannot afford their own attorney. The state must assign them two public defenders, and pay for the costs of the prosecution as well. (2)
- The rate at which death penalties are handed down at sentencing has gone down dramatically over the last twelve years, with slow-downs occurring in almost every state that still allows the death penalty, including the southern region (4)
Dragging on the process of appeals is costly. It costs $90,000 more annually to house a death row inmate than it does someone sentenced to life imprisonment.
Another misconception? African Americans make up the majority of death row. Wrong. According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), 43.68% of inmates on death row are white, 41.77% are African American, 12.12% are Latino and the remaining 2.43% are categorized “other”. Further, many believe that the South is more likely to sentence a black man to death row than a white man, but Alabama has equal numbers of both, and Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee have more white men on death row (3).
You don’t have to support the death penalty. You can certainly move to one of the 16 states that has banned it: Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia or Wisconsin. Or better yet, another country.