It is a common belief that most people sentenced to life imprisonment soon leave the prison walls and end up in the streets. Once they are out of prison, the greatest fear among law-abiding citizens is that most criminals will continue with their criminal intents. As a consequence, members of the public who are opposed to the idea of setting such prisoners free think that they should each receive a death sentence. The death penalty has been utilized for many years as the most effective way of punishing criminals convicted of murder. To a large extent, those who are opposed to the death penalty argue that the practice is cruel, barbaric, and completely unnecessary.
This paper examines various research findings to determine whether prisoners should spend the rest of their lives in prison if they are convicted of murder. In my opinion, every prisoner deserves fair treatment, and no prisoner should receive a death penalty. I am convinced that many convicted murderers who are subjected to the death penalty are innocent people who should be given a second chance in life. Certainly, this is an important research topic that deserves a detailed study. The families of prisoners who receive the death penalty are made to undergo pain on a daily basis as they think about those killed by the government. In most cases, the lives of the families of the victims of death sentences get transformed forever.
My choice of topic is informed by the fact that most prisoners who are convicted of murder and sentenced to death do not get an opportunity to think about the effect of their actions on other people. It is my conviction that such prisoners should be given enough time to think about those they have killed. It is thus my hope that more prisoners convicted of murder will be allowed to stay in prison instead of being subjected to death sentences. It is better to ensure that convicted murderers get a chance to think about victims of their cruel acts instead of having them executed almost immediately. Unfortunately, some convicted murderers do not get an opportunity to reflect on their actions.
Arguments for and Against Death Penalty
The idea of the death penalty is quite contentious and one that has been opposed by a number of human rights organizations around the world. In general, human rights organizations see the death sentence as a barbaric act that must be condemned (Park 11). According to Schabas (177), many people are opposed to the idea of the death penalty because of the controversies involved. As a result, stakeholders are making attempts to come up with an alternative approach to dealing with convicted murderers. For proponents, the death sentence is an important step in dealing with people who have no regard for humanity. In the United States, the death penalty is regarded as disgraceful and uncivilized. As a consequence, many people are of the opinion that any person who commits murder deserves to be put to death for his or her criminal behavior. Statistics by Amnesty International indicate that close to 58 countries, including the United States and Japan, are presently using the death penalty to deal with those who commit murder.
The death penalty makes it possible for nations to get rid of murderers and make society safer. Arguably, it is impossible for any criminal who is already dead to commit more crimes. For proponents of the death penalty, subjecting convicted murderers to life imprisonment is an expensive undertaking. Rather than spend money taking care of convicted murderers, proponents argue that all convicted murderers should be executed immediately. They are convinced that execution is the best option for ensuring that murderers get an equal measure of the crime committed. Allegedly, the death penalty also acts as a deterrent to discourage potential criminals from getting involved in criminal activities. However, some research findings indicate that the death penalty can not be used as a strategy to stop people from killing others. While a few criminals may choose to stay away from trouble, some may choose to continue with their criminal activities.
According to Jost (967), the number of executions has been declining over the years. Using different murder cases, Jost is able to show that people generally hold different views regarding the death penalty. Jost further alleges that the overall expense of keeping a convicted murderer in prison for the rest of his or her life is often higher than that of subjecting them to a death penalty (980). The author also argues that many prisoners stay locked up in prison for a very long time only to be acquitted due to lack of evidence.
With the help of real-life cases to support his study, Liptak (1) established that prisoners who are locked in prison for a long duration end up becoming less violent. In addition, they get to learn important life skills that can help them to reconstruct their lives soon after they are released from prison. As argued by Liptak, the idea of ensuring that convicted murderers receive a life sentence instead of being killed should be fully supported (1). To a certain extent, prisoners may reform and become responsible citizens after being locked in prison for some time. As earlier explained, subjecting murderers to a death sentence denies them an opportunity to think about their actions and devise a strategy to change and be different.
In some instances, an individual convicted of murder may be made to suffer unfairly. It is thus imperative to give all prisoners an opportunity to reform and make an attempt to live a totally different life as responsible citizens. Ostensibly, subjecting a convicted murderer to a life sentence has two advantages (Liptak 2). First, it ensures that criminals are kept away from the streets and secondly, criminals receive appropriate punishment. Concerned members of the public may also get an opportunity to help acquitted prisoners in their reform process by offering them support in the event that they are released from prison. Among other things, they can encourage criminals released from prison to focus on doing the right thing.
Drawing from a study by Parks (14), those who are opposed to the death penalty do so for a number of reasons. To start with, the death penalty is considered to be ethically wrong. Apparently, most people can not comprehend how taking the life of a human being can be acceptable in society. The death penalty is also intolerable since there is a very high possibility that an innocent person may be convicted wrongfully and sentenced to death. Unfortunately, the problem of the race also affects the administration of the death penalty (Joy 236). By and large, most of those convicted of murder in the United States, for example, are Americans of African background. Considering the biased nature of dealing with offenders based on race, members of the black community are more prone to being arrested and convicted of murder than their white counterparts. Seemingly, the link between the problem of race and the death penalty is a familiar one, and this explains why most African Americans end up being sentenced to death.
Although there have been efforts to delink the problem of the race from the death penalty, nothing much has been achieved, and the situation is likely to remain the same for a long time. According to Banner and Banner (135), it is wrong to discriminate criminals based on race. State governments should ensure equality for human rights, and no individual should be treated unfairly because of his or her racial affiliation. The debate concerning the death penalty is further complicated by the fact that human beings can make mistakes, and incorrect evidence may be used to convict people of murder. Unless there is credible evidence, many innocent people end up being accused of falsely. In most murder cases, the justice system relies on the evidence that is provided by eyewitnesses without any physical proof. Unfortunately, some eyewitnesses may lie and make innocent people lose their freedom. It is thus essential for the prosecution to ascertain the credibility of the evidence presented in a court of law. In addition, it is possible for judges and prosecutors to be subjective while handling cases brought before them.
In order to eliminate the fear that those found guilty of murdering will soon make their way back to the streets, most state governments decide to extend the length of stay in prison for such offenders. Apparently, this helps to build the confidence of the public and also grants prisoners enough time to reform. On average, most prisoners will be jailed for at least 20 years before they can be released from prison. Furthermore, individuals who are convicted of more serious crimes may be forced to remain in prison for a longer period. This notwithstanding, some people are still worried about having convicted murderers released from prison. For such people, the death penalty is the only way through which such criminals can be eliminated from society.
On the other hand, there are those who are of the opinion that people can change if given fair treatment. By confining convicted offenders within the prison walls for a long time, it is presumed that those convicted of murder will get an opportunity to reflect on their actions and eventually have a change of attitude. With a changed attitude, criminals may eventually leave prison as responsible individuals who are ready to make a real difference in society. For the period that criminals are in prison, it is possible for prison warders to organize programs that can help them reform and acquire one or two life skills that can benefit them once they are released from prison. While it is possible for some criminals to pretend and make people believe that they have changed yet they have not, there are many who are genuine and desire a radical transformation.
From the discussion presented in this paper, it is obvious that prisoners should spend the rest of their lives in prison if they are convicted of murder. Rather than sentencing them to death, they should be given an opportunity to reform and become responsible individuals in society. In my view, executing those convicted of murder is completely improper. Unless it is possible to determine with absolute certainty that an individual is not willing to change, prisoners should be given a second chance to rebuild their lives. As earlier mentioned, death sentences may lead to the death of many innocent individuals. As a matter of fact, eliminating a prisoner by killing him or her may not create a lasting change. Moreover, advocating for the death penalty creates an impression that taking a life is lawful as long as it was done by the government.
Despite the various arguments that exist in support of the death penalty, it is inhumane to subject convicted murderers to such a punishment. This is made worse by the fact that no evidence can be completely flawless. As a consequence, it is imperative to ensure that any evidence provided in a court of law can be relied upon. Ascertaining the credibility of the evidence given enables those responsible for administering justice to avoid convicting innocent people of murder and subjecting them to death sentences. Although the Bible speaks about administering harsh punishments, which include death for individuals who go against the will of God, It also cautions against committing murder. Even though one may argue that convicted murderers should also die, the bible speaks against taking revenge and teaches that we should let God be the judge.
As explained in this paper, it is imperative to separate the problem of the race from the death penalty. Because of the racial problem, most prisoners convicted of murder in countries such as the United States happen to be African Americans. To ensure fairness for all regardless of race, those responsible for administering justice should make every effort to isolate the problem of the race from the death penalty. By all means, race should not determine whether an individual should be subjected to the death penalty.
Banner, Stuart and Stuart Banner. The Death Penalty: An American History, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009. Print.
Joy, Sandra. Coalition Building in the Anti-Death Penalty Movement: Privileged Morality, Race Realities, Lanham, MA: Rowman & Littlefield, 2010. Print.
Jost, Kenneth. “Death Penalty Debates.” CQ Researcher 20.41 (2010): 965 – 988. Print.
Liptak, Adam 2005, To More Inmates, Life Term Means Dying Behind Bars. Web.
Parks, Peggy 2012, The Death Penalty. Web.
Schabas, William. The Abolition of the Death Penalty in International Law, New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print.