(U-WIRE) — In 2007, five countries – the United States, China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran – were responsible for 88 percent of the world’s executions. I am not proud that our country is grouped with these four nations, given the disrespect they have for human rights.
It is time to re-evaluate the use of capital punishment in the United States. Some quick facts: 137 countries have abolished the death penalty, including Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada, three countries quite similar to our own.
The majority of European and Latin American countries have taken the step to end capital punishment. Countries that still have a death penalty are mostly found in the Middle East, Africa and eastern Asia.
The United States sticks out like a sore thumb in the Western world for its continued application of the death penalty. It is embarrassing that our country continues to punish people in a manner that countries most similar to our own culturally and ideologically have abandoned.
But, maybe our country has really good reasons to continue to execute criminals??Wrong. For one thing, the death penalty costs a lot of money – much more money than housing a criminal for a life sentence in prison.
People who commit violent crimes are generally too poor to pay for their own attorneys. Thus, the state or federal system must provide legal counsel for these individuals. According to a 2008 study, the cost of defending a trial in a federal death case is more than $600,000, which is eight times more than a murder case in which the death penalty is not sought.
Also, when someone is sentenced to death, he (only 2 percent of death sentences are given to women) is likely to appeal his case several times, so the cost just keeps rising.
For example, in California the death penalty system costs $137 million, but a system in which life in prison is the maximum sentence would only cost $11.5 million. But, cost alone is not important; after all, justice should have no price tag.
One would hope that such a pricy investment would lead to a decrease in murders, but this is not the case. Several authors claim there is no reliable evidence that proves the death penalty deters people from committing murder.
Using similar methods to those used by researcher trying to show the death penalty prevents crime, one 2006 study found the death penalty might actually increase the number of murders.
Deciding who receives the death penalty is also an unfair process, demographically speaking. As I mentioned earlier, only 2 percent of the people on death row are women. This statistic does not make me think women are much less violent than men. Instead, it seems more likely that a prosecutor would be much less likely to seek the death penalty when the criminal is female.
Additionally, 40 percent of death row inmates are black, even though they only make up 12 percent of the U.S. population.?
However, it is the race of the victim that is most likely to affect a prosecutor’s decision to seek the death penalty. Since 1976, 80 percent of the people put to death have had white victims, while only 13 percent have had black victims.
While this statistic mirrors the percent of the population each group makes up (75 percent of Americans are white, and 12 percent of Americans are black), African-Americans and Caucasians have an equal chance of being murder victims.
Several factors suggest there is something inherently wrong with the death penalty system in the United States. To cover all of them in such a short space is impossible. For more information, check out “The Death Penalty Worldwide” on infoplease.com.