The Declaration of Independence was designed to grant the government the duty to perform limited objectives, such as preserving the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of its citizens. But is “life” truly always looked after?
Over the past few centuries, the United States government has been using the death penalty to kill citizens that it deems as a severe threat to society, such as murderers or terrorists. While there is no doubt that dangerous people are a threat to society, the death penalty is not the proper way to solve this issue. Not only is the death penalty excessively costly, inhumane, and counterproductive, but it is also a violation of the limited powers of government.
There are currently 32 states that currently allow the death penalty, and 18 states it, including Minnesota.
California, Nebraska, and Oklahoma had the chance to vote to continue allowing the death penalty or abolish it during the last election; all three voted to continue allowing it. One of the primary reasons why some states have abolished the death penalty is that it is an extremely costly approach. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, a death penalty case costs approximately $2.3 million in Texas, which is about three times more expensive than keeping the person behind bars for life at the highest security level. The death penalty is a costly, lengthy process, due to the high number of lawyers, judges, and attorneys involved. A typical death penalty case takes about six-to-ten years, due to the multiple different steps in the process. The longer the process, the more time that attorneys, lawyers, mitigation experts, and other personnel invest in, which leads to a higher cost. Local governments are required to increase taxes on citizens in order to have sufficient funds to complete a death penalty case. According to Amnesty International, a death penalty trial costs an average of 48 percent more than the average cost of a trial in which prosecutors seek life imprisonment in Tennessee.
One of the most prominent arguments against the death penalty is how countless people have been wrongfully convicted and executed in previous years. In 2006, the Chicago Tribune released an investigation that there was evidence to prove that Texas mistakenly executed an innocent man in 1989, Carlos Luna. Unfortunately, this is a situation that has occurred in many cases. Wrongful convictions occur because of reasons such as eyewitness misidentification, false confessions, or police misconduct. According to a study done in the US, about 4 percent of inmates on death row are innocent. The amount of errors and flaws that occur in these cases is daunting and disturbing.
There has never been evidence that the death penalty has made us safer or has in any way benefited the state. States without the death penalty, such as Minnesota, Michigan, and Vermont, have lower homicide rates than states with the death penalty, such as Alabama, Mississippi, and California. A large number of police chiefs and public officers have publicly expressed the fact that states with the death penalty have higher murder rates than states without it. A person contemplating on committing murder will not be deterred by knowing that the death penalty in their state is legal.
The movement to abolish the death penalty has been increasing due to the ideas of liberty gaining momentum across the nation with millennials and young adults. Since Ron Paul’s presidential candidacy, there has been a massive surge in the liberty movement. Even though conservatives have traditionally favored the death penalty, this is a unique opportunity for conservatives to realize how the death penalty is incompatible with conservatism and unite with liberals and libertarians to oppose this punishment. If our government was small and had limited powers, as conservatives and libertarians favor, the death penalty wouldn’t exist. The death penalty is a pivotal example of government overreach, where the government is taking a role in an area where that power was never delegated it. Providing the government the power to execute can worsen the problems of government abuse. Throughout the nation, countless organizations, such as the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, have been formed and unified to end this cruel punishment.
For the first time in 45 years, the death penalty has lost majority of the support of the nation. Rather than continue implementing this failed, cruel, inhumane approach, states should invest the saved money in institutions such as crime prevention, education, and others that can avoid future incidents. Before you advocate for the death penalty next time, just remember: “We kill people who kill people, because killing people is wrong.”