A Right To Life

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by Rebecca Wiemann

            Growing up in a family full of homicide detectives leads to some interesting stories at holidays. My great grandma had sixteen kids, and out of those sixteen, ten of them were boys. Out of those ten boys, eight of them are now homicide detectives in the state of Missouri. Being brothers, they don’t usually agree on much, but one thing they can agree on is their opinion of capital punishment. They’ve seen what life is like inside of prisons. They believe, and I agree, that sentencing someone to the death penalty is giving them the easy way out. The criminal doesn’t have to deal with life in prison and some of the unspeakable things that happen in there. Many studies even say that the threat of the death penalty doesn’t deter criminals at all. .”  (Durlauf, Fu, Navarro 103) Since it’s usually the really horrible criminals that get the death penalty, it seems like we’re cutting our nation’s horrible criminals some slack.

Every American knows that they have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This act of capital punishment is actually a direct contradiction of our rights as American citizens. Many people may say that the criminals to commit such horrible crimes, but as bad of people as they are, they’re still Americans, and they still have rights. Perhaps the people who would normally get the death penalty should instead receive a life in the solitary confinement corridor of the prison. Solitary confinement can actually be a form of physical and mental torture, which in my opinion, is much worse than death. Inmates in solitary confinement have no contact with the outside world. The only communication they have with another human being is when they are given food through a little slot in their door from one of the officers in the prison.

Another thing is that it seems to me that the judge and jury are playing God. Who are they to say when and where a person’s life will end? That is not their place. A person’s life should be the one thing is this world that no one can take from them. They can lose their house, car, husband, wife, kids, friends, money, but the one thing that can actually be called their own can be taken away by the vote of some people who were randomly assigned to a jury. It’s widely known that we consider ourselves more civil than most Middle Eastern countries, but in 2008 Uzbekistan became the ninety-second country to abolish the death penalty for all criminal offenses (Hood and Hoyle 1). America prides itself in being fair and just, but that is far from the truth. There is nothing about capital punishment that is fair or just. I believe that a person has a right to their life and they can do with it what they want, without worry about others’ opinions. The death penalty takes away that right.

There are so many things that can go wrong in a court of law. Evidence can be misconstrued, people can lie on the stand, and lawyers can twist words. With all these possible things that can happen, why is it considered right to put someone’s life at stake? Especially when there are so many things that can go wrong. “Critics and opponents of the death penalty are warning that capital trials and sentencing hearings are so riddled with flaws that they risk resulting in the execution of innocent persons” (Jost, Death Penalty Controversies par. 1) There are plenty of instances when innocent people have been sentenced to death and we were only to find out about their innocence after they had been killed. To avoid such injustice, the easiest and most obvious answer is to make capital punishment illegal. Sure, it helps keep our prisons clear and stops them from overflowing, but there’s an easy alternative to that as well. Many less intense crimes, such as breaking and entering, can lead to jail time. If these less intense crimes could possibly have different consequences, there would be much more room for the criminals who have actually committed horrible crimes.

We tell the youth of America not to kill; yet we go around killing every day. Killing someone because they killed someone else is the equivalent to a kid punching another kid just because another kid punched him. It doesn’t solve the problem, it just creates another one. How can we teach our children a lesson, when we don’t even follow that lesson ourselves? It’s called practicing what you preach, and I think America should try it. The death penalty has not proven to deter crime at all, despite what many people believe. So, since it hasn’t proven to deter crime at all, what is the point of having it? It is not helping at all, and it is not doing any good.

The right to life is not just a life for Americans. The right to live a life is a universal right that should be granted to every human being on this planet. Who do we think we are taking someone’s life? Who gave us the right to decide if someone lives or dies? These are the kind of questions that we should be asking ourselves more often. It seems that people are enjoying playing God, deciding if someone should live or die. Yes, they did commit a horrid crime, and yes they deserve to be punished, but they are still a human being and human beings have the right to life. Besides, life in a dirty prison with no real luxuries or freedom would be seen by some as a worse punishment than death. Death is the easy way out.

Works Cited

Durlauf, Steven, Chao Fu, and Salvador Navarro. “Capital Punishment and Deterrence: Understanding Disparate Results.” . Springer Science and Business Media, LLC, 21 Feb 2012. Web.

Hood, Roger, and Hoyle, Carolyn. “Abolishing the Death Penalty Worldwide: The

Impact of a “New Dynamic”.” . The University of Chicago Press, 2009. Web

Jost, Kenneth. “Death Penalty Controversies.” . CQ Researcher, 23 Sep 2005. Web.


11 thoughts on “A Right To Life

  1. I love this quote: “Death is the easy way out.”
    It’s so true.
    And while I agree with so much of your paper, you say one thing that I absolutely disagree with:
    “Every American knows that they have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This act of capital punishment is actually a direct contradiction of our rights as American citizens.”
    The reason I disagree with this is because once you have committed a crime that warrants the death penalty, they no longer deserve the right to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. They have given up all rights. To call them a criminal or an inmate is too good for them as it would imply that they are even worthy to be classified on the same level as you or I. The moment they committed themselves to their crime, they became sub-human and deserve treatment as such.
    As far as this argument is concerned and this is where I think our thoughts meet is what punishment is great enough to punish these animals? That’s still up for debate. They deserve to go to hell but their ride needs to be a bit more strenuous.

  2. There are a number of thins I agree with here. I would say that I do agree that the death penalty should be abolished, and I do agree that people who commit lesser crimes could have a different punishment. Breaking and entering could receive community hours and house arrest. Drug related crimes could involve rehab or for in the case of arresting a dealer house arrest would be another option. However, I do not thing that solitary confinement should be the alternative to the death penalty. I think solitary confinement is cruel and unusual punishment. It is has harsh as sleep deprivation or water boarding, and it is not something the united states should be advocating. The criminals are already detained and the public is safe from them, so there is no need to put them into a box until they die. All that does is keep them consciously dying instead of actually dead.

  3. This article is fabulous. However, I’d really work on your use of the word “that.” Even though I disagree with your stance, your use of information makes me think about your views a little differently. I thought it was interesting for you to mention Uzbekistan being the 92nd country to banish capital punishment… But is Uzbekistan part of the Middle East? I thought it was in central Asia. I agree with you on your stance on solitary confinement. You comparing it to sleep deprivation or water boarding is superb.

  4. Very well written paper. In my personal opinion, I’m not sure how I feel about capitol punishment. If I had been put on death row, I’d most certainly prefer to live the rest of my life in jail instead of being killed. But if someone broke into my house and murdered my entire family and stood there and laughed until the cops came? I probably would prefer that they did not enjoy a long and healthy life. I’m sure that’s not the most ethical or mature choice, but it is how I would feel ya know?

    I do not know how many people are killed via capitol punishment every year. But it is worth considering that every single one would, instead of being killed, be incarcerated for life. Meaning you and I as tax payers are paying to keep these people alive. This may be a small difference in the amount of money we pay, or it may not. I’m no economics expert, but its worth considering the possibility that your hard earned money is going to feed and clothe and lock up these people who committed such atrocities that have earned them life in prison/ what used to be capitol punishment.

  5. As a criminal justice major, I can definitely relate to and agree to most of what you are trying to say. But as far as keeping major criminals in solitary confinement forever, that’s where I disagree. When someone is put in prison, the prisons need money to sustain them with food, water, shelter, etc. And that money comes right out of the taxpayer’s pocket and could (depending on how long the inmate lives) potentially cost more than putting someone to death in the long run. I agree with how you said that “the judge and jury are playing God” and that its not their place to decide when a person’s life ends. But, in a topic like this, there is a very fine line that is almost impossible to determine. Great article, I really enjoyed it.

  6. A criminal surrenders a lot of his rights when he is convicted of a crime. That’s the nature of punishment. The right to assembly is one example – if the NRA is having a protest to a gun law, someone who is in jail can’t get out of jail to go join the protest, despite their right to assembly, because they gave up that right when they were sent to prison.

    1) We are *not* better than the middle east. Saying things like that is both racist, and the *worst* kind of Islamophobia. As the West, and as the United States, we’ve done at least as much bad stuff to them as they have done to us. There is a reason the radicals in that region think we’re incredibly imperialistic. Hint: it’s because we are, or at least we were.
    2) So if we *are* more civil than the middle east, and we *do* have the death penalty while they *don’t*, then, logically, doesn’t it make sense that having the death penalty is *more* civil than not having it?
    3) Just because Uzbekistan has abolished the death penalty means nothing about whether we should. We are an entirely different culture with entirely different opinions on what is right and wrong. They may believe it is more “civil” to not have it, but that in no way should impact how we view the death penalty.

    You would be amazed at how rarely an innocent person is executed. Very few people are actually given the capital punishment in the first place, because juries can’t convict a person unless they know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the person is guilty, and judges will more often choose life in prison because there might be a chance that new evidence proves them innocent. So you’ve got a small number of people being put on death row, and only a small fraction of that is innocent – it is probably much lower than the fraction that ends up in prison that is innocent, for the aformentioned reasons.

    Do you understand how awful a life of solitary confinement would be for a person? How mentally destroying that would be? To *never* have interaction with another human being again? If the death penalty is bad, then this idea has to fall under cruel and unusual punishment. There is no way you could say that execution is morally wrong, but dooming someone to a drawn out death in which they become progressively more mentally unstable due to being locked in the same room alone for the rest of their lives is okay.

  7. I would agree with you. I too, think that the death penalty is just an easy way to get away from the actual punishment. If the person killed someone they shouldn’t have to go through the same yet, be even more severely punished. I’m sure that been in prison to life is not something any one would like to hear. Making a cell be your home is probably not something we aspired to have when we were children. Not only would they be punished, but if they are able to get out, they might have received the right treatment they needed. Great job! I thought it was great that you had family sources you used.

  8. I believe the death penalty should not be an option. I want them to be in jail till they die from something else not a shot we give them. If someone did kill my family I would want him dead, but I would rather see him sit in jail, but I am not for solitary confinement. I have done a lot of research on solitary confinement and not only does it cost twice as much to house them, but they do go insane after a couple months.

  9. This is a tough one for me because I do agree that we shouldn’t take away someone life based on a crime that they committed, but then again I have never had a close relative or friend taken from me by another person. If on of my friends were murdered by someone I’m hope that I wouldn’t want the criminal to take the death sentence but I can’t say for sure. I will agree that the death penalty should be used less. I just found out that some drug lords can get the death penalty just for selling marijuana. To me that is way too extreme. You do bring up many good points but I can’t say that I can agree with keeping criminals alive longer to make them suffer. I personally don’t want any person to suffer more than they have to.

  10. I agree with you completely, ones life is something no one should be able to take from them. The fact that they are in prison due to committing murder, is something they should have to live with for the rest of their life. Allowing the death penalty to occur is giving them the easy way out of not having to live with what they did.

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