As the war on crime continues, two truths hold steady: eliminating all crime is impossible, and controlling it is a must. The main weapon used to control crime in this war is deterrence. The government's deterrent for committing murder is the death penalty, also known as capital punishment. Everyone thinks human life is valuable. Some of those against capital punishment believe that human life is so valuable that even the worst murderers should not be deprived of the value of their lives. They believe that the value of the offender's life cannot be destroyed by the offender's bad conduct - even if they have killed someone. Some abolitionists don't go that far. They say that life should be preserved unless there is a very good reason not to. In David Gelternter's essay, "What Do Murderers Deserve?" he says that while most Americans are for the death penalty, we have lost sight of its purpose. We have lost the faith in our system that we worked so hard to build. My main issue with Gelernter's essay is that his convictions are riddled with emotions and a severe lack of logic and empirical evidence that capital punishment benefits our society. The bottom line is that fear of the death penalty will not stop would be murderers from committing unspeakable atrocities.
Even though many may feel it an inappropriate argument to equate a human life to the expense incurred by the taxpayer to keep that person alive, it actually costs more (a lot more) to execute someone than to keep them in prison for the rest of their lives. It is a point that may have an impact on the death penalty argument from a government point of view, as well. One would assume that shortening someone's life should be cheaper than paying for it until natural expiration, it turns out that it is actually cheaper to imprison someone for life than to execute them. Every state that has a death penalty also has an intricate system and basis for appeals. These appeals can relate to everything from due process claims to equal protection (minorities are convicted at far higher rates than whites) and, most famously, to the cruel and unusual punishment prohibition of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In California, which happens to be the slowest state in the Union, has an average wait time of twenty years for someone sentenced to death between conviction and execution. The national average is just under nine years. (amnestyusa.org) While all of this waiting is going on, the process has not ground to a halt. The appeals process consumes hours of labor, not only by court staff, but also by the often court-appointed, tax payer funded, and constitutionally guaranteed public defenders. As a result, some estimate that it costs U.S. taxpayers between $50 and $90 million dollars more per year (depending on the jurisdiction) to prosecute death penalty cases than life sentences. Another reason many states have seen skyrocketing costs and have considered banning the death penalty: DNA evidence. (amnestyusa.org) Genetic testing is not cheap, nor are the experts required to testify about the results. But, now that hundreds have been exonerated as a result of genetic testing, it is clear that it is an invaluable tool in the criminal process and has helped to prevent innocent men from facing death for crimes they did not commit. Death penalty trials are more expensive for several other reasons, as well. They often require additional attorneys. Security costs are often higher for death penalty cases, both in the courtroom and in prison where death row inmates are usually housed separately from other inmates. Of course, the immediate response when pointing out this fact during a death penalty debate is that we should simply get rid of the appeals. While this would eliminate a portion of the expense (increased trial and security expenses would not be avoided), it would also eliminate fundamental civil rights granted every to American. Given the number of...
Cited: Gelernter, David. "What Do Murderers Deserve." 1998. The Norton Mix. New York: W.w. Norton, 2012. 270-79. Print.
"U.S. Death Penalty Facts." Amnesty International USA. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Jan. 2015.
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