1,500 and Counting: The Brutal Reality of Capital Punishment
The Execution on June 20, 2019 of Marion Wilson marked a bloody milestone for the judicial system of the United States: Wilson was the fifteen-hundredth prisoner to be executed post-Gregg v. Georgia.
As of 2019, the Death Penalty InformationCenter confirms that 29 states and the Federal Government retain the death penalty, although some do not practice the penalty due to Governor imposed moratoriums or legal challenges against the current execution procedure. 21 states have now abolished the death penalty as a form of legal punishment.
I am not a moral philosopher and I do not seek to answer the moral questions behind the death penalty, however, looking at the evidence, the usage of capital punishment post-Gregg has not decreased the rates of violent crime committed in the states which retain it. As ABC Newsreported in 2015 over 88% of the criminologists in the American Criminology Society did not believe the death penalty deterred murderers
The question has to be asked, If the majority of criminologists, those who understand crime on a deeper level than almost of all us did not believe it was an effective deterrence, why do states retain the death penalty? One could theorize a number of reasons. However, the theory I've always believed is that the states which retain the death penalty do so because the act of retaining the death penalty and executing prisoners, is a way to show to the voters that you are "tough on crime". Whether or not the legal punishment itself is effective is irrelevant; it’s the message that it sends.
Then there is also the quite dark reality of what the usage of the death penalty could mean: the execution of innocents. People could die by the hand of the state, without even committing a crime, due to a number of factors including racial bias, poor police work, and the failure of the system to properly defend defendants facing the death penalty. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, more than 160 innocent prisoners have been executed and exonerated since 1973.
So, is capital punishment doing more harm than good, if innocent people are dying and crime is not being prevented? It may be uncomfortable, and it may require deep thinking, but the United States has to either reform the system surrounding capital punishment entirely or abolish it fully before it is too late.