The death penalty should be abolished for the following reasons:
1. There are people on death row who are innocent. Individuals are being let out all the time after serving many years on death row facing execution. Killing innocents is an unjustifiable risk, especially when life in prison without parole is an option and sufficient for incapacitation.
2. The poor are disproportionately executed given their representation in homicide statistics. Poor people are at a marked disadvantage when it comes to defending themselves against the power of the state. The death penalty is class biased and therefore unjust. Most serious punishment is biased and unjust because of this, however the death penalty is irrevocable.
3. Blacks are disproportionately executed given their representation in homicide statistics. Blacks are at a marked disadvantage when it comes to defending themselves against the power of the state, both because blacks are disproportionately poor and the system is racially discriminatory. The death penalty is race biased and therefore unjust.
4. It is not a deterrent. In fact, it increases murder where it is practiced (what has been called the brutalization effect). This is because the state sanctions lethal violence. The state should not engage in behavior that increases the likelihood of lethal violence. The state, by killing people, puts others at risk of being killed or injured.
5. It is inefficient. The costs of killing a person is far more than the costs of keeping them in prison for life. It costs more because we have safeguards in place so that the risk of executing innocent person is less. The safeguards must remain in place as long as we practice the death penalty, so there is no way to make the punishment cheaper than imprisonment.
6. Incarceration is an effective method of incapacitation (and you don’t risk killing an innocent person). The more rational alternative is preferred.
7. The death penalty as currently practiced violates the eighth amendment prohibiting cruel and unusual punishments. It is therefore unconstitutional. It is unlikely that killing a person can with any certainty be made free of suffering, either physically or psychologically.
8. The taking of human life, except in self-defense or to save the lives of the innocent, is unjustifiable homicide. The death penalty is employed under neither exception and is therefore unjustifiable homicide – that is murder.