Unanticipated Effects of Capital Punishment

Dear Readers,

As I discussed last week, in the coming weeks I am going to be exploring the death penalty in the state of North Carolina. The crimes that warrant the death penalty mainly include murder, but also consist of intent to kill, as well as treason and espionage. While these crimes are undoubtedly serious, society may be facing an even greater threat by putting prisoners to death, because this permanent act not only dehumanizes these prisoners, but ourselves as members of this society.

“The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, the condemned.”

-Bryan Stevenson, lawyer, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, and author of Bestselling novel, Just Mercy

When the death penalty is inflicted, society is affected, because each individual member of society stands by and allows it to happen. In North Carolina alone, there are 148 death row prisoners. For every person we allow to be put to death, we undermine the state’s role to protect its citizens, and show the decreasing value we place on human life.

I am going explore these ethical questions later in my analysis post, but for now would wish to pose to you the question that has followed me through my research thus far: What is society hoping to gain through execution? I think it is crucial for this issue to be brought to the attention of each individual in society, and then for us as a whole to acknowledge its consequences. I encourage you to begin this conversation here and now, by commenting below with your thoughts.

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8 thoughts on “Unanticipated Effects of Capital Punishment”

  1. I think with execution the justice system is trying to make a statement that certain crimes will not be tolerated and in hopes that similar crimes will not be committed in the future because people know they will not just result in jail time but a death penalty. However, I’ve always been interested in the death penalty. If it were me, if I was either going to spend a lifetime behind bars or die, I think I would choose death. It would be quicker and a life in jail forever does not seem appealing to me. I wonder if by giving the death penalty to prisoners were actually helping these people who have committed cruel crimes, and giving them something that they want. But I know recently with the Boston bomber, he asked for forgiveness and to not be given the death penalty. I wonder why he wants to live in jail with no future and only thoughts of what he’s done.

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    1. You pose very interesting thoughts. To your first point I am going to say this, I have researched and (sadly) was not able to fit into my blog post the idea that the “statement” being made by usage of the death penalty actually has no effect. There is data that proves that crime is higher in states that have the death penalty vs. those that do not, and that there has not been a decrease in capital crimes in those states since the death penalty has been established.
      I think you’re view on your own personal preference is unique, I have considered this issue for awhile and honestly have not thought about what I would do in that situation. However, I do know that many people would much rather live a life in prison rather than be killed at the outset. I am sure it is because some are innocent and have not lost hope of a retrial. But for those who aren’t innocent, it is difficult to say how you’d be feeling in a moment like that, where life imprisonment and capital punishment are your two options.

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  2. This is a very broad topic and has so many aspects to it, but I think you did a great job in your first blog post on taking a stance and also stating your fulcrum. I think this topic could cover racial prejudice on how minorities are more often put on death row. An interesting case to look at would be the Edward Lee Elmore case, and to see how an African American was put on death row. Also many of the people put on death row are later found to be innocent and thus this also has negative affects on the whole system. You might want to look at that as well. Also you said that it might be important to consider what society is gaining out of putting people on death row. I think you might to cover economic factors in that as well. Showing that this is not economically sustainable to do. Also, i think you are already focusing on the emotional and ethical factors of this, which is great! There are so many things that you could discuss with your readers about this topic. So I was just wondering where you were going with your post and if you were just going to focus on one topic within the death penalty category. Also, I believe you have a negative stance on the death penalty. So my question for you to consider would be that is it okay to ever put anyone on death row, for instance, mass murders or terrorists? Why or why not? Also, who should make the decision on whether a person should be put on death row, and do the courts have this right, and does the general population agree with this decision and want to keep the death penalty? This is a lot to consider and maybe you’ll cover it in your other posts, so I’ll check back!

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    1. Girl2foreducation,
      Thank you so much for your feedback! You have brought up so many good ideas, points, and aspects of Capital Punishment, some of which I had already been researching and considering, and others that I would definitely like to think about and reply to at a later time.
      As for a specific focus, I think that I am going to use each blog post as a chance to delve in to a new aspect, so as to give my followers an understanding of the whole issue. Of course, that is subject to change if during my research I find a topic that is so significant and complex that it deserves complete attention, so, we will see I suppose!
      Lastly, your question of death row in any circumstance really made me stop and think. But here is what I can give you, simply, for now. If we, as a society, can protect our people without ending a life, then we should. That is to say, using the same logic as I spoke with above, if a criminal can be locked away and does not pose an immediate threat to society, then that life should be protected as well, no matter how horrendous the crime.

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  3. As an answer to the question posed, I guess those in society that think capital punishment is necessary argue it is because capital punishment alleviates society from these horrible people. However, is it worth the cost? I heard that it is actually more expensive to execute someone rather than have that person serve a life sentence. Then the problem of space rises though and the argument that the criminal got an easy way out or an easy life style given some prison standards. Personally, I could not condemn someone to die. Even though I would have not physically killed that person, I would have made the decision to end someone’s life. Morally, I could not have that on me. I don’t feel like I have the right to determine that, nor does that make me better than a murder, even though I have different motives.

    I read Bryan Stevenson’s novel as well. After hearing all of the personal accounts from those in prison, I can’t help of think of them as human beings too. I am not saying that people who commit these horrendous crimes shouldn’t be punished, but I think that’s where the line get so blurry. Not to mention the fact the fact the book brings up those who are innocent on death row.

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    1. I understand your answer to my question, and in few words I will say that I hope those people will find that there are other alternatives to the protection of society that do not include death.
      You are correct about the cost of execution versus life imprisonment; this is something I am planning on discussing in a later blog post. “The problems of space” you mentioned I’m assuming refers to overcrowding of prisons? My “gut” feeling is to say that if less money is being spent on executions, it should not be problematic to build more high-security prisons, if need be. But it is a very interesting point that I have not considered and will definitely try to answer in research and in one of my upcoming blog post.
      This issue is a blurry line, due to so many reasons. But I hope that, like you said, punishment can be the alternative for a horrendous crime, rather than death.

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  4. Rainbowunicorn2,
    I thought this was a well-formulated and provocative post, and I can’t wait to read more of your blog. I can’t say for certain that I understand society’s reasoning behind capital punishment, but I think it’s still performed in part because it allows for psychological release; I think some members of society feel more at ease knowing that certain condemned persons can no longer possibly cause them harm. (I should probably mention that I don’t agree with this reasoning).

    Also (and I don’t agree with this either), what do you think of the argument that the state is performing its role of protecting its citizens by using capital punishment, because it is protecting the law-abiding citizens from the “worst” offenders?

    What do you think of members of society who try to abolish the death penalty but fail? Do you think they are as culpable as those that take a more passive stance or avoid the issue altogether?

    And, just out of curiosity, do you know how many death row prisoners avoid being put to death each year? Or how many are found to be not guilty and released altogether?

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    1. Thank you so much for your feedback, compliments, and thoughtful questions, I really appreciate it!
      Protecting society against its “worst” offenders is one of the strongest arguments in favor of capital punishment. Although these people may have committed heinous crimes, I think that it is still a poor reflection of society. For more reasons than just my philosophical ones above, unless society is still at risk with such a criminal behind the bars of a high security prison, death should not be the answer.
      To your comment about those members of society who try but fail, of course they are not “culpable”. But I also hope my post does not seem that I am judging or even can judge members of society. I think that my post is more to discuss the state of society as a whole, which does not include its “outliers”. The comparison that came to my head when I was reading your post was that of global warming. If we all were as preoccupied with global warming as global warming activists, we could have policies changed, and see huge results. But we don’t. I am not blaming activists, nor other members of society. But our lack of action will have consequences. I hope this makes sense.
      To your last question, I am not sure of that number and/or percentage. I am hoping to talk about that topic some time in the near future though, so I will make sure to look into that!

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