America should cancel its membership in the Death Penalty Club
As part of the recent conservative tea partying, the Values Voters Summit came to Washington to join the fun and festive protests against our government. As I read the list of sessions the summit held, passing topics such as “ObamaCare: Rationing your life away” and “Truth Tolerance: Countering the Homosexual Agenda in Public School,” I was shocked not to see anything about the usage of the death penalty in America. Unfortunately, a 2008 Gallup poll explains why such a topic wouldn’t be included. Much to my astonishment, 64 percent of Americans still support the death penalty. In a nation where the vast majority follows a religion founded on the principles, “Thou shalt not kill” and “Turn the other cheek,” how can such a solid majority condone government killing of its own citizens?
The saddest part of our country’s support for this barbaric policy is that it is based on a false comfort: criminal deterrence. Those who support capital punishment argue that it works to discourage heinous crimes. The almost comical logic behind this argument is that we expect a murder to be a rational actor. Statistics prove this notion is ridiculous. A 1997 American Civil Liberties Union study shows that there is no significant correlation between the number of executions and the national murder rate. In fact, since the re-incorporation of capital punishment, the national murder rate has remained constant.
There is no reason this policy should comfort us — in fact, it should disgust us. The primary reason is that our justice system in not perfect. It makes mistakes. Even past the appellate courts, there have been convicted citizens who were later found innocent. Our government says “oops” and releases them. But with capital punishment, there is no room for “oops.” The idea of sentencing an innocent person to death should sicken every American, Christian or otherwise.
The death penalty is also detrimental to our wallets. Capital punishment proves more expensive for states than sentencing someone to life in jail. In 2009, California estimated they could save $126 million a year if they were to end their death penalty program. In this economy, states need to find budget cuts so more important programs can be funded. Ending capital punishment — pay attention to this, Republicans — is both fiscally and morally responsible.
America cannot continue to be the only western democracy to support this practice. If the U.S. is truly to be the representative of democracies and liberal states, other nations must not be hesitant to send us their criminals. We must cancel our membership in the Death Penalty Club.
It would be easy to set this issue aside, but the death penalty depletes our wallets and harms our world image. It also poisons our culture. It is the precedent of government execution, not the acceptance of homosexuality or the rise of feminism that represents the decimation of American values. This issue of capital punishment distinguishes a “Values Voter” from a voter with values.
Phil Cardarella is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and a liberal columnist for The Eagle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.