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Should Capital Punishment Be Abolished in the USA?

For many years, social and political conversations focusing on capital punishment in the United States have been deeply emotive and divisive. American citizens have held opposing viewpoints on this controversial subject. A Gallup poll conducted in 2006 sought to establish whether American citizens preferred either capital punishment or life in prison without parole. Forty-eight percent of respondents preferred prison without parole to capital punishment (Koenig and Rustad 193). The differences in opinions around this debate have, in some cases, been based on emotions rather than reasoned judgments. Scholars have advanced competing arguments on the place of capital punishment in the contemporary American criminal justice system. Despite the arguments in favor of capital punishment, abolishing the practice in the modern criminal justice system has greater benefits than shortcomings.

Abolishing the death penalty would free up billions of dollars that can be channeled to other programs. According to Koenig and Rustad, one of the concerns of the death penalty is the cost associated with sustaining the practice, which remains alarmingly high (194). Given the high cost of the death penalty, the practice should be replaced with life imprisonment without parole. Currently, these costs stand at an exorbitant figure, which is unsustainable for the states. According to a study by an Urban Institute, the cost of administering the death penalty in Maryland stood at $1.9 million more than life imprisonment without parole (Koenig and Rustad 197). Additionally, in the period between 1982 and 1997, the U.S. spend about $1.6 billion on capital trials. Worse still, in New York, a staggering $175 million went to capital prosecutions in the period 1995-2005. The surprising fact is that despite this high figure, the state did not make any execution of serial killers. The cost associated with administering the capital punishment is also high for states. In California, for instance, the death penalty apparatus consumes about $90 million annually (Koenig and Rustad 204). Despite the high cost of the apparatus, the state only executes about one individual every two years. Therefore, the death sentence is not cost-justified. As a result, abolishing the death penalty would result in significant cost savings, with the money redirected to other development programs such as improving public safety. Redirecting that money can help maximize investment in public safety. For instance, the money that would be used in capital punishment sentencing can be channeled to other areas such as upgrading data systems, strengthening supervision, revamping crime labs, and reinvesting in cold-case investigation units. Other sectors that this funds can be redirected include grief counseling and supporting victims of crime for their lost income. This way, the criminal justice system would benefit two-fold: justice would be served through life without parole and the saved funds would be redirected to improve public safety. As a result, abolishing capital punishment would benefit states more than keeping the practice.

Additionally, exterminating capital punishment in the United States would guarantee some degree of fairness to the thousands of Americans who have to unfairly encounter the wrath of the death penalty. Given the unfairness inherent in the U.S. criminal justice system in the area of prosecution and sentencing, the country should consider abolishing the federal death penalty. In the United States today, the criminal justice system is engulfed with systemic racism. According to Stimson, the U.S. should make the criminal justice system work the way it was intended to operate. The presence of racist judges, racist prosecutors, and substandard defense lawyers makes the criminal justice system ineffective to administer capital punishment in the country. Stimson recommends eliminating all cases of racism in the justice system if the country is to stick by the state and federal death penalty statutes. In the U.S. today, 29 states have the death penalty statute (Stimson). Even so, states should consider abolishing this practice, given that it is not adequately equipped deliver justice effectively. The fact that several death row inmates have been acquitted after having been wrongly convicted is indicative of just how capital punishment is at times unfair. Abolishing capital punishment would serve Americans better. Punishing capital offenders through life without parole would serve the primary purpose that the death penalty seeks to achieve – general deterrence, punishment, and specific deterrence. As it stands, the bias inherent in the justice system could lead to disproportionate application of the penalty, such as executing innocent people.

Abolishing the death penalty would also emphasize the United States regard for human rights. For a long time, the U.S. has been a staunch advocator for human rights, as indicated by its commitment to implement international human rights standards of promoting a civil society and reinforcing the rule of law. Nonetheless, the country’s insistence on capital punishment for crimes such as first-degree murder contradict its mission. The implementation of the death penalty represents an ultimate denial of human rights. According to Bedau and Cassell, opponents of capital punishment understand that the practice is openly condemned by the rest of the civilized world, with a majority of these countries arguing that the death penalty contravenes international human rights law (30). As a result, through this penalty, the U.S. undermines the country’s moral authority and the worldwide view regarding the U.S. Abolishing the penalty would thus cement the U.S. position in advocating human rights.


Indeed, abolishing death penalty in the modern justice system has more benefits than deficiencies. In the U.S., the current capital punishment is a costly policy, which is also awash with bias and error. The presence of racist prosecutors, incompetent defense lawyers, and biased judges renders the justice system inept to administer such a sensitive penal approach – capital punishment. Therefore, as it stands, operating the death penalty does not make the U.S. safer; abolishing the practice would. Given the exorbitantly high costs associated with capital punishment, abolishing the practice would mean that the funds can be channeled to other programs of improving public safety. Besides, repealing the death penalty in the U.S. would underscore the country’s position in championing human rights and worldwide view and moral standing regarding the U.S.


Bedau, Hugo Adam, and Paul G. Cassell, eds. Debating the death penalty: Should America have capital punishment? The experts on both sides make their case. Oxford University Press, 2005.

Koenig, Thomas H., and Michael L. Rustad. “Deciding Whether the Death Penalty Should Be Abolished.” Suffolk University Law Review, vol. 44, 2011, pp. 193-209.

Stimson, Charles Cully. “The Death Penalty is Appropriate.” The Heritage Foundation. 2019, December 20.


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