The U.S. government will officially resume executions of federal death row inmates this December. This comes after Attorney General William Barr directed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to adopt an addendum to the Federal Execution Protocol that allows it to move forward with capital punishment in order to bring “justice to victims of the most horrific crimes.”
Execution never results in justice. It may feel good to sentence the worst of society’s criminals to death, but this will never right the wrongs of the crimes those convicted people have committed. Not only is it a barbaric mechanism for a modern government to use, but it is used in a wholly imperfect justice system, prone to human error. The justice system lacks the capability to correctly identify perpetrators with 100 percent accuracy. These downfalls are enough to repeal the death penalty entirely.
Death Row Inmates Have Been Exonerated
A perfect criminal justice system does not exist and probably never will. And with human life on the line, the government can no longer risk executing the wrong person in the name of justice — it’s far too dangerous.
It’s easy to believe that everyone convicted of a crime must be guilty, but it simply isn’t true. Since 1973, the government has exonerated all charges from 166 death row inmates. All of those people could have been wrongfully killed for crimes they did not commit. There could be more. Organizations such as Innocence Project work to free innocent people from wrongful incarceration, and despite the group’s success in freeing 365 people to date, its caseload isn’t getting any smaller.
Wrongful convictions happen due to a number of factors, many of which are honest human mistakes. The single nationwide leading cause, for example, is eyewitness misidentification. This is due to human memory errors, which lapse and misremember important details about events.
Other contributing factors, according to the University of Michigan Law School, include junk science, false confessions, government misconduct, faulty snitches, and bad lawyering. No person is immune from fallibility. These errors have forced hundreds of people into wrongful imprisonment, and it could happen to anyone, even you.
10 Guilty Should Go Free Rather Than 1 Unjustly Killed
The government claims to prioritize protecting the safety of our great nation above all else, yet it doesn’t value its own citizens enough to protect them from the potential errors of the justice system. As egregious as wrongful incarceration is, at least a wrongfully imprisoned person has the potential to be set free. The government has a chance to learn from the mistakes and, in some states, pay compensation to the wrongfully convicted. But death steals that opportunity, ridding these people of their constitutional right to due process.
The basis of human life is enough of an argument to repeal the death penalty nationally and in every state. Would it not be better to have 10 guilty people spend life in prison than accidentally end one innocent life?
Morally, this makes sense. But it’s better financially as well. Numerous studies conclude that pursuing capital punishment is more costly than the alternative sentence of life in prison. This means states that choose to pursue the safer option by abolishing the death penalty are also on track to save money in the long run, a win-win situation for both government and citizens.
It’s easy to look at the national death penalty cases before us — five inmates convicted by the courts on terrible charges involving rapes and murders of innocent children — and make a quick and vindictive judgment about how they deserve to die. But you cannot teach a society that killing is wrong by killing. The taking of another life can never demonstrate justice — only vengeance, disgracefully disguised as justice.
It’s Tyranny for Government to End a Life
Allowing the government to decide when to end a person’s life based on the criminal laws it writes is one of the most tyrannical powers a society can grant a central authority. And keeping the death penalty as a legitimate and lawful form of punishment leaves the door open for politicians to more easily apply it as a penalty for other crimes in the future, beyond the current offenses for which it is used. This is alarming, as government power only continues to grow, and even recent history demonstrates that power can easily shift from one party to another with the changing of years.
In prisons, staff must abide by a number of legal standards to uphold the health and safety of every inmate, regardless of the crimes committed. These standards are in place because Western societies have generally agreed torturing citizens is wrong, and taking away people’s basic rights while under the state’s care is inhumane. Why, then, is it justified to take away the right to life, the most sacred right? Anyone who believes in personal liberty should oppose capital punishment.
By clearing the way for capital punishment to proceed, the federal government has declared that vengeance is more important than the safety of its citizens. It should instead recognize that every human life is valuable, and risking even one potentially innocent person’s life is not worth the retribution some believe the death penalty provides.