The death penalty is one of those topics avoided in conversation because most people recognize its controversial nature. Iowa and many other states that abolished the use of the death penalty decades ago have made countless attempts to reinstate it.
Iowa first abolished the death penalty in 1872, but after citizens began to take justice into their own hands, it was reinstated in 1878. It was again abolished in 1965 and remains today. ‘hui. According to Iowans Against the Death Penalty, there were documented reinstatement attempts in 1876, 1963, 1975, 1976, 1993, 1994, 1997 and 1998. In January of this year, the Iowa Legislature introduced a law Project, SSB 1004, who tried to restore the death penalty once again. The bill did not move forward in this session, but it is worrying that it was introduced at all.
The reinstatement of the death penalty would be a step backwards for justice reform, which is why it is crucial that the Iowans heed these arguments and reach out to local lawmakers so that the death penalty is no longer. on the table in the future.
Deterrence is one of the many reasons people support the death penalty. It is the idea that future criminals will be deterred from committing similar crimes if they see someone put to death for it. Research on this topic has not been conclusive. Another argument comes from the retributivist theory of punishment which essentially says that offenders should be punished in proportion to the crime committed. This argument boils down to what Flanders calls “One life for one life”. Another argument mentioned by Rachel King in favor of the death penalty is the idea that it will reduce the burden on taxpayers because “killing people is cheaper than putting them in jail”. Finally, many believe that killing a criminal will shut down the families of the victims.
In terms of deterrence, as previously stated, the evidence is inconclusive. But this argument has deeper implications; the rationale is that the murderers who will be deterred, and therefore the lives that will be saved, are sufficient to justify the death penalty. This begs the question though; are we doing something as long as it has a deterrent effect? The idea of “killing a few to save the many” mentioned by Finkelstein is also worrying. It devalues the lives of convicts and basically only sees them as a way to save others. The partisans can justify that the convicts are guilty and therefore deserve this punishment. Unfortunately, according to Marshall, since the 21st century, we have entered a “revolution of innocence” with more than 100 people leaving death row after being exonerated. It may seem rare, but according to The Equal Justice Initiative, for every 9 people executed, a person sentenced to death is exonerated. The possibility that this practice will lead to the execution of an innocent person is a glaring illustration of its immorality.
With regard to the monetary aspect of the death penalty, the scandalous annual cost is just one more reason to oppose this practice. For example, King says the death penalty costs California $ 90 million a year and that in Texas a death sentence costs an average of $ 2.3 million, about three times the cost of jail time. of a person in a single cell at the highest level of security for forty years. If that is not enough, the cost versus the cost of living without parole provides an even more compelling reason to oppose capital punishment.
The final argument that most supporters focus on concerns the families of the victims. It’s easy to believe that families can benefit from the death of someone who has killed or seriously injured a loved one, but this is often not the case. Marietta Jaeger, a person interviewed in Rachel King’s touching book Don’t Kill in Our Names whose daughter was kidnapped and killed, explains her opposition to the death penalty: would only increase my desire for revenge and not help me. In fact, I think it would hurt me. Even though it is believed to help the family, it still raises a crucial question: why is it okay to punish murderers with more murders?
The racial and economic disparities that exist in the application of the death penalty are also significant. First, we see that there are more black defendants tried for the death penalty than white defendants, with the ACLU reporting that 55% of those currently awaiting execution are black. There is also a significant difference in the likelihood of seeking the death penalty depending on the race of the victim. The ACLU states that “while white victims make up about half of all murder victims, 80% of all death penalty cases involve white victims.” The death penalty is also shown to have a disproportionate impact on the poor.
In a report published on the occasion of World Day Against the Death Penalty, the United Nations said: “If you are poor, the chances of being sentenced to death are immeasurably higher than if you are rich. There could be no more serious charge of the death penalty than the fact that in practice it is in fact a penalty reserved for persons belonging to disadvantaged socio-economic groups. This reveals the discriminatory nature of this practice and further illustrates the moral responsibility we have to oppose a practice that targets already marginalized populations in our society.
The death penalty is an issue that has remained extremely controversial. This is especially true in Iowa, where many attempts have been made to revert to the use of the death penalty. While there are many arguments in favor of this practice, many of these arguments are wrong, invalid, or based on certain assumptions. The death penalty has lost a lot of public support over the past twenty years, so it is fitting that Iowa continues to move in the right direction in voicing its opposition to the death penalty and preventing attempts to reinstate our legislature. . It is also crucial that my compatriots in Iowa vote for lawmakers in the next election who also oppose this practice.
The death penalty is expensive, discriminatory, and serves no real purpose that cannot be achieved by other alternatives such as life without parole or even non-life sentences that include rehabilitation.
Delaney Logan is a senior at Coe College with a specialization in psychology and criminal justice.