Persuasive Essay: Ending the Death Penalty

913 words | 4 page(s)

While some states have eliminated the death penalty, the federal government still reserves it as a possible punishment for federal crimes. In order to try to bring about a change in this policy, this letter is addressed to my representative and senator in hopes that they will propose and support legislation to end the practice. The death penalty is expensive, ineffective, and morally wrong, and for that reason, it should no longer be a part of the American criminal justice reality.

The death penalty represents an unnecessary expense for the federal government. During a time when federal spending is under extreme scrutiny, there are some policies that could be wiped out, saving money and bringing about a better outcome for society at the same time. The death penalty is one of those policies, and because of that, it should be ended. When the federal government seeks the death penalty in one of its trials, the trial proceeds completely differently than when it chooses not to seek death. The case takes much longer, as both sides are required to conduct more research. In many cases, the defendant will be indigent, which means that the government will have to pay for his lawyer. That lawyer will need to hire psychological experts in an attempt to spare the man’s life. All told, estimates suggest that seeking the death penalty is roughly one to three million dollars more expensive in any given case when compared to life imprisonment without parole. These statistics are quite obviously case-sensitive, but there is little denying the evidence that the death penalty is more expensive than the alternative, so in a time of fiscal responsibility, it makes sense to support legislation ending the penalty.

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Some may argue that despite its high costs, the death penalty is necessary because it deters crime. Statistics suggest, however, that this is not the case. The federal government uses the death penalty sparingly. It has only sought death in a handful of cases where it ‘ or the United States military ‘ had jurisdiction over the murder. What this means, then, is that because of the low percentage of murders that actually lead to the government seeking the death penalty, people who might commit murders can quickly and easily rationalize that they will not be the people receiving a death sentence. Likewise, researchers tend to believe that most people who commit murders do not conduct the kind of cost-benefit analysis that would make the death penalty a deterrent. In some cases, as with suicide bombers, they do not care about their death. In other cases, they are so mentally distressed that they do not consider the costs of their actions in the first place. If a person does not consider the costs, then adding the possibility of a death sentence to the equation will have little effect on that person’s actions. These propositions have played themselves out in a number of different settings, and the numbers mostly support the proposition that the death penalty, while typically cited as a criminal deterrent, does very little to deter crime.

Lastly, the congress members should support legislation to end the death penalty because it is morally wrong. The federal government should not be in the business of killing its citizens. During a time when there is consistent uproar about the over-power of government, it makes very little sense to give government the ultimate power over its citizens ‘ the power to take a life. Likewise, the death penalty, as currently constructed, is based upon a flawed system. Innocent people are convicted quite often. In fact, dozens of people condemned to death row have been outright released from prison after it was found that they did not commit the crime that they were convicted for. This happens all the time at the state level, and there is no reason why it could not happen at the federal level. The unfortunate reality surrounding human beings is that we make mistakes. When entire systems are comprised of human beings and dependent upon those human beings, the system, too, will make mistakes. The criminal justice system continues to run despite these mistakes, and society has made a determination that we would prefer even an imperfect criminal justice system over no justice system at all. With most sentences, though, there is a way to correct human error. Death is final, however, and it represents a last chance to get things right. It is immoral to employ a system when one knows that its mistakes might cost an innocent person his life. By doing so, the government itself is no better than the individuals who are doing the killing in the first place.

The death penalty provides no legitimate benefit to society other than satiating the need of some to take their vengeance against individuals who have committed admittedly horrible crimes. It is an expensive tool that costs the government too much money. In addition, it has been shown, time and again, to not be an effective deterrent to future crime. Simply put, even with the death penalty in place, people have shown that they will continue to commit murder. This unfortunate reality is one that the government must deal with. Perhaps most importantly, the death penalty is a moral wrong. Given the imperfect nature of the country’s systems, which are infected with class problems, racial problems, and the like, the death penalty, as it is employed in America, does not stand up to moral scrutiny.

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