Updates on the Death Penalty


Is the death penalty moral, or should it be abolished?

The death penalty is a hotly debated issue that has yet to come to a conclusion. Around half of the states in America have already abolished the death penalty. However, the United States still has twenty-seven states where it is still legalized and considered capital punishment. In 2020, seventeen prisoners were executed, all on counts of murder. This was in five states in total. In 2019, there were over 3,700 inmates on death row across the country. Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is given to those civilians who commit crimes such as treason, murder, espionage, sex trafficking, and more. Unfortunately, the most common of these today is murder. The punishment is determined by each state. If a state decides that the death penalty should be abolished, then it will make that decision as a state.

However, there has been recent talk about President Joe Biden, with the help of Congress,  attempting to pass a law making the punishment illegal forever.

The death penalty should be abolished due to the corruption of the justice system.  The death penalty is a form of murder that has not been an effective solution to punish crimes. Over 93% of inmates were put on death row as a result of murder. The 8th Amendment in simplest terms states “excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” The death penalty clearly counteracts the 8th Amendment. It is an ignorant solution that dates to the 18th century. The death penalty clearly undermines the standards of human dignity. Executing someone for killing another does not benefit anyone. You could argue that it serves justice for the families that lost a loved one, however, having the criminals behind bars for life does the same. The actions of crime and murder are inevitable. They will not go away, with or without the death penalty.

The justice system makes mistakes, there have been too many wrongly convicted criminals on death row. Sometimes by the time it is proven that they were innocent, they are already gone. Walter McMillian is a perfect example. In August 1988 in Monroeville, Alabama, he was convicted of murdering an eighteen-year-old white female. He was taken to trial and sentenced to death. He had almost completely lost hope. A young lawyer named Bryan Stevenson did everything he could to prove that McMillian was innocent. McMillian was released in 1993 after spending six years in jail for a crime he hadn’t committed. There are many reasons why the death penalty should not exist, and many states have already outlawed this punishment.

  The lawyer, Bryan Stevenson, went on to tell his story and continue to further help the system. He was working toward saving countless innocent people from losing their lives on death row. Later, Stevenson started a company called the Equal Justice Initiative. He hired more lawyers like himself to work in that field. Stevenson worked for the poor minorities of his town and took cases that seemed almost impossible. He wasn’t even being paid. He later stated in his article, Capital Punishment: murder most foul, “Bias against the poor is exacerbated by bias against racial minorities. Over half of those awaiting execution in the U.S. are racial minorities”.These families could not afford big-shot lawyers; therefore, he was all they truly had. Stevenson was a smart, young,  black man straight out of Harvard Law. He knew he was not going to get hired in his town, which at the time was white, privileged, and incredibly racially biased. None of these factors stopped him from doing what he had come to do in Monroeville; he knew he needed to help. He not only took on Walter McMillians case, but several other cases of individuals on death row at the same time as McMillian. Stevenson worked and worked to prove the innocence of these men. It got to the point where Stevenson was risking his life for them in this dangerous town he had come to serve. The town was so racially-biased that he would get death threats and be publicly harassed for his job and for just doing what was right.  

While the death penalty is still around in some places today, it is slowly going away one state at a time. The death penalty is only given to those who commit such a crime to receive capital punishment. The problem is how messed up the system is; inmates will get beaten by their officers and harassed daily. As stated in an article written by Fogel Law Firm, “Unfortunately, inmate abuse is a fact of life for more than 100,000 prisoners. The abuse comes in different forms and from different sources, so it’s difficult for incarcerated persons to ever feel safe in their day-to-day lives”. This happens all over the country and it is extremely unsettling. Inmate abuse should not be tolerated. It is more common for inmates of racial and religious minorities to be harassed in prison. If the prisoners were to come forward about this, no one would take the word of a criminal over a respected officer.   

There are many instances in which the innocence of an inmate is proven. By the time that that happens, their death dates have either been set or they are already gone. Countless people and lawyers are trying to work for the system and fix these issues that come with it. This topic is extremely sensitive and hard to crack down on, but the system needs to stop making mistakes. It makes it worse for this country and does not benefit anyone. The majority of inmates accidentally put on death row are Black. People need to stop being racially profiled, and this country needs to change. Abolishing the death penalty does not guarantee the rates of murder will go down, but it is obvious there needs to be a change in the way the system operates. It has been corrupted for over a century.