Pros And Cons Of Death Penalty Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Death Penalty

An issue as divisive as the death penalty has many arguments in its favor and many against it. Sorting through these different arguments to find a reasonable conclusion to either support the death penalty or not can be challenging. In terms of favoring the death penalty, there are two main themes, the deterrence theme and the retribution theme (Gill, 2013).

Some pros are:

Death penalties act as a deterrent for some

Death penalties act to punish those who commit heinous acts

The death penalty is more cost-effective than keeping someone in prison for life

Violation of the social contract to behave with civility towards one another rules out one's right to civil treatment from society

Prevents future crimes

Some cons of the death penalty are:

The right to life is sacred and no one should take it, governments included

Moral hazard in choosing who lives and dies

The death penalty does not act as a deterrent

The death penalty in the U.S. is handed out in a racially-biased manner

The poor are also targeted disproportionally, as they lack access to quality legal defense

Source: (2013)

In general, I do not support the death penalty. I accept that the death penalty is an inadequate deterrent -- that those most likely to be deterred are rational citizens who are unlikely to commit capital crime anyway. Those who do not act rationally are unlikely to be deterred. Research typically shows ambiguous results with respect...
...While I am in principle fine with the idea that those who break our social contract in such a way as to kill another are deserving of no other fate than death, it is necessary to also accept that there are constraints on the degree to which we should exercise our right to retribution.

It is here that my objection to the death penalty arises. America is a racist, classist country and cannot be trusted to enact the death penalty with the maturity and gravity such a punishment it deserves. Bright (1992) argues that the Bill of Rights should protect those who have limited ability to protect themselves -- the poor and minorities. Furman v. Georgia imposed strict new standards on the application of capital punishment because its use was found to target minorities and the poor disproportionally. Since that ruling, minorities and the poor still dominate the list of people on death row. The states most likely to impose the death penalty -- nine of the ten states with the highest execution numbers are south of the Mason-Dixon line (, 2013) -- are precisely those with the worst histories of systemic racism in the nation. This does not reflect well on our ability to use the power of capital punishment responsibly. The Bill of Rights is applied unevenly at best,…

Sources Used in Documents:


Bright, S. (1992). In defense of life: Enforcing the Bill of Rights on behalf of the poor, minority and disadvantaged persons facing the death penalty. Yale Law School. Retrieved November 4, 2013 from (2013). Death Penalty Information Center. DPIC. Retrieved November 4, 2013 from

Gill, K. (2013). Pros and cons of the death penalty. Retrieved November 4, 2013 from

Manski, C. & Pepper, J. (2011). Deterrence and the death penalty: partial identification analysis using repeated cross sections. Institute for Policy Research Northwestern University Working Paper Series. Retrieved November 4, 2013 from

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