Capital Punishment v. Life in Prison

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Written by Maxine Tattoli

Capital punishment is commonly known as the death penalty. This is when an offender, who has been sentenced to death after conviction by a court of law, is executed. There are about 41 crimes that are punishable by death in U.S. federal law codes. The death penalty can be inflicted for treason, murder, large-scale drug trafficking, and more. But what happens when an offender is convicted and executed but is actually innocent? Is it fair that innocent people are being killed on death row? This may happen because they are not fortunate or wealthy enough to pay for a lawyer. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, more than 170 people who were wrongly convicted and sentenced to death have been executed in the U.S since 1973. In America, the federal government kills people because of crimes they have committed, but why is this okay?

Some defendants may be exonerated completely or released from death row and someone could have their sentence commuted which replaces the original, court-ordered sentence. A commutation is a substitution of a lesser incarceration sentence or lesser punishment. After being cleared of a capital offense, a defendant may be released from death row and their sentence becomes reduced. If a defendant is exonerated, this means that the conviction of a crime has been reversed and this usually occurs through a demonstration of innocence or a flaw in the conviction.

On death row in 2020, 5 people have been exonerated- 3 of them being black, 2 of them being white. The death penalty has been proven to be a racist system. The color of one’s skin plays a significant role when deciding who receives the death penalty. In 28 states out of 50, capital punishment is authorized by the federal government and the U.S. military.

In some people’s minds, it makes sense that if a defendant kills someone, they deserve to be killed. Instead of helping or assisting criminals through rehabilitation, they are sentenced to death. In America, assisting defendants has become considered too kind or too compassionate.

Everybody has their own opinions. In my opinion, the authorities that act on the death penalty are resorting to the same course of action that criminals use. For example, a rapist is not punished by rape. We should not punish a murderer with death. Some people may ask if executing someone is a better alternative than locking them up. Executing someone is a final decision and is irreversible and it does not give the defendant the chance to become exonerated if new evidence arises. The death penalty does not actually discourage crime, and there is no evidence to show this. An alternative to the death penalty could be sentencing convicted murderers to life in prison. In America, we do not tolerate killing others, so why should authorities be able to kill others?