Capital Punishment (And Whether It Should Still Exist In America)


On June 17th, 2015 9 people were murdered in a mass shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The massacre was rightfully deemed a hate crime; the killer, Dylann Roof, identified himself as a white supremacist and explicitly stated that he’d hoped to start a race war. After almost a year and a half, Roof was convicted of 33 federal hate crimes and sentenced to death.

But this isn’t really about Roof, or the massacre for that matter. This is about capital punishment, and whether it should still exist. I’ll come right out and say that I believe death sentences are immoral. I am also of the belief that the justice system should exist to keep citizens safe. I believe that incarceration alone does not solve issues with crime. To quote New York Times writer, James Gilligan, “The only rational purpose for a prison is to restrain those who are violent, while we help them to change their behavior and return to the community.” Prisons should attempt to rehabilitate offenders, and train guards to not use violence to deescalate situations because multiple studies show that when people are treated violently, as they often are in prisons, their violent tendencies only worsen.

That said, there are many instances where people cannot be changed. They will not see reason and no amount of therapy will change their behaviour or way of thinking. I believe Dylann Roof is one of these people, as he has shown no remorse for his crimes. However, even though hearing his name and what he did makes me sick to my stomach, I still do not believe he should be executed. And it’s not that I don’t feel the need for vengeance, for him to ‘pay the price’ for his actions, I do, but logically, killing him will do nothing to fix the damage he’s done, which is what I really want. Would killing someone like Roof do anything to help his victims or change the way people like him think and behave? No

I used to believe that capital punishment was deserved in specific scenarios. However, there is no reason other than revenge, for death sentences. There are also too many cases where people are wrongfully convicted of crimes, and then sentenced to death. According to Nebraska State senator, Ernie Chambers, a man who has worked directly with the justice system in cases like these, “[O]ver 150 people in the last few years have been taken off death row because they were innocent.” How many more innocent people were sentenced to death, but never saved? Handing out irreversible sentences runs a very high risk of convicting the wrong people and ruining lives, which is not a risk I’m willing to take.

Killing a person, doesn’t change the effects of their crimes, it does not heal the pain of the people affected, and there is absolutely no evidence to even suggest that death sentences deter people from committing crimes. The only thing death sentences can do is keep a person from committing crimes again or sharing their views, but that can also be achieved through incarceration. Killing a criminal, as barbaric as their crimes may be, doesn’t remedy their crimes and, to me, there is nothing good that can come out of vengeance.

No human should have the right to take the life of another person, even if that person has ruined lives. This is why, as much as I am disgusted by the actions of people like Dylann Roof, I can’t support capital punishment.





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