The Death Penalty

The biggest issue with the death penalty today is innocence and error. Even if one found the death penalty morally right, which I do not, many people who have been on death row have been found to be innocent (1 in 9 to be exact). When I think of that staggering statistic, I see just how corrupt the justice system is. With other issues such as racial bias, I believe that the root cause is found in the over-policing of lower-class neighborhoods which are unfortunately dominated by racial minorities. Inadequate counsel is the byproduct of over expensive attorneys and poor funding by the states. Arbitrariness is mostly an issue of the past; I am not shocked by the fact that an estimated 20% of death row inmates have a serious mental illness, as the National Alliance On Mental Illness reported that 20% of all Americans suffer from a mental illness; and I would expect that to reflect more dramatically among prisoners due to their stressful environment. The main problem with executing criminals is that factors such as a biased jury, racism, overworked attorneys, and even corporate greed can lead to the conviction and death of innocent persons.

Before watching Just Mercy I was already fairly anti-death penalty. A few years ago, I was neutral or even slightly pro-death penalty, mostly because I was uneducated about the topic and believed that if you committed murder then you deserved your own death in return. Then after I started getting interested in true crime, my views began to change as I saw that many “criminals” were actually wrongly convicted. These opinions were solidified after I watched The Green Mile. The movie follows the story of a stereotypical dumb, big, black man who is on death row for the rape and murder of a little girl. We learn that he was wrongly convicted, and the prison guards (including Tom Hanks) are aware of this fact. The prison still goes through the process of executing him. It was a very touching film and one that I will never forget.

After watching Just Mercy, my theories about the broken justice system were confirmed. I knew that death row is expensive and that we keep prisoners in cells to rot for decades before finally killing them, but I did not know the full extent of the problem, especially pertaining to public safety. The specific issue of the death penalty has been caused by many factors, and I can’t help but sympathize with those who are facing the sentence today. Thinking that maybe if the accused person was white or had a good lawyer could mean that they were acquitted breaks my heart. Even if you brush aside all of the corruptness of the legal system, I still believe that the death penalty is inherently wrong. Even the most monstrous and vile of people can have redeeming qualities, and we have to remember that these offenders have families and friends who love them. I’m not advocating for convicted murderers and rapists to run free in society; I have no problem with life sentences. But everyone is redeemable, and by ending lives we are not giving those people a chance to better themselves.

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