The Death Penalty and the Golden Wallet

Twenty-three people were put to death by the United States government in 2017. Twenty-three lives ended because the government had decided they had the right to play God. Twenty-three people died because the government believed they had the right to decide when people should live and when people should die.

The criminals that receive a capital sentence have killed people in cold blood. They deserve to rot in jail. However, the potential for human error and inhumanity of the death penalty coupled with the cost of a death penalty sentence make it unreasonable.

The exoneration of 161 inmates on death row since 1971 according to the Death Penalty Information Center is a compelling enough reason to eliminate the death penalty purely based on the human errors found in our justice system.

Some of these people, who were completely innocent, died for crimes committed by someone else. With even, the possibility that an innocent person is being killed has made it hard for me to understand supporting the death penalty.

Cameron Todd Willingham was convicted in 1992 of an arson that killed his three children. In 2004, he was executed shortly before a ruling that deemed the fire accidental and exonerated him. Not only did this man lose his three children and his freedom, but he then lost 12 years in prison and his own life. Columbia University tracked 5,800 death row cases between 1973 and 1979 and found major errors in 68 percent.

Capital punishment is an unnecessary part of the American judicial system. There are currently 10 inmates on death row in Kansas. In Johnson County, the most recent case was the Jewish Community Center shooter,  Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School gunman has once again brought the debate about the death penalty to the table.

I have complete sympathy for the victims of these horrific people, but I can’t allow myself to condone killing these criminals when just eliminating the death penalty and punishing them other ways makes more sense financially and ethically.

Kansas hasn’t executed an inmate since a double hanging in 1965. Most prisoners wait roughly 15 years on death row and 25% of them die of natural causes before they are executed, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. This death penalty isn’t being used frequently enough to justify the cost proving that the policy is outdated and unrealistic.

Not only do these inmates waste away for over a decade before they die, they cost states an average of $116,700 more than an average trial in Kansas.

Then, if they are convicted, it costs three times as much to incarcerate someone on death row compared to the average prisoner. If a quarter of the prisoners will die before their sentence can be put into place, there is no point in spending so much money on them while they are alive. The Death Penalty Information Center estimated that California alone could save $90 million a year by abolishing the death penalty.

In the 32 states that allow the death penalty, including Kansas, in the form of lethal injection. The lethal injection isn’t like falling asleep. It isn’t painless. Sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride cause muscle paralysis and respiratory arrest before your heart stops. In recent years, new drugs have lead to botched executions.

Midazolam and hydromorphone were used for the first time in the execution of Dennis McGuire in 2014. His death took 26 minutes.

He gasped for air for at least 10 minutes, according to the anesthesiologist, who stated that McGuire “went through true pain and suffering. To a degree of medical certainty, this was not a human execution.”

McGuire suffered. He hurt people, but the government did the same thing to him. You can’t justify harming a person like that.  They go into executions knowing they will inflict pain and justifying it under the law.

Lethal injection has the highest rate of botched executions at 7.1 percent and is used in capital punishment in all states that still have the death penalty in place. In an execution in Arizona, it took two hours for the inmate to die after be injected with the chemical.

I understand the people that advocate for the death penalty. People like the idea of a perfect justice system where people pay for their crimes, but we can’t condemn killing people with more killing.

In some states, death row inmates are automatically placed in solitary confinement for the duration of their sentence. While I agree that punishing these criminals is essential, killing them isn’t the answer. The suicide rate among death row inmates is five times higher than the rate among the U.S male population.  They don’t want to go on living with the pain they have caused people. We shouldn’t be giving inmates an out, but forcing them to live with the crimes they have committed against humanity.

Photo Credit: Carsten ten Brink

Leave a Reply