Cervantes: Life after death row


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I’d like to think of myself as a liberal person. The first article I ever wrote (for my middle-school newspaper) tried to persuade readers to vote against the ban of same-sex marriage and, despite my Catholic roots, I identify as a supporter of a woman’s right to choose. Yeah, I guess it’s safe to say that when it comes to most social issues, I will be found sitting comfortably on the left side.

Key word: most.

If there is one “controversy” that I can most definitely associate with conservatives on, it would be the necessity of a death penalty. No matter how proud I become of our society, I acknowledge that certain individuals and their crimes are on such an atrocious level that there is no worse punishment than to feel a needle with lethal poison to pierce their skin.

Too bad the death sentence has become so ineffective.

In 1993, Nathan Dunlap shot up a Chuck E. Cheese. He killed four people and critically injured a fifth.  In 1996, he was sentenced to death row. Recently though, he has gotten a brief stay (postponement) of his fate. Many are outraged by this action. And they should be. Here is a man who gets to live on through his days while there are families who will forever mourn their losses.

This isn’t some rare occurrence. The number of death-row inmates who get their comeuppance is more rare then most people think. Some, such as Richard “the Night Stalker” Ramirez, die of natural causes, while others, such as Jeffrey Dahmer, are killed by other inmates. As of 2014, there are 3,054. That is 38 fewer than 2013.

What bothers me so much about this is the sheer number of death-row occupants in comparison with the number who die by mandate. If you add that the average number of months to the execution date (as of 2012) is 190 months and that the median cost for execution cases is $1.26 million, then it becomes apparent how problematic this entire system is.

Now that the problem has been identified, how does one go about to fix it?

I think that getting rid of the death penalty all together would cause more harm then good. Overpopulation is still a problem, and the people on death row certainly don’t deserve to contribute to it.  The cost of the process could be cut by changing the common execution method, but then again we must still maintain the most humane death possible, so that doesn’t quite work, either.
What we have here is double-edged sword of a conundrum. By trying to rectify one problem, another one is created. Does this then mean that capital punishment is a failure of a system?

Even though there are a plethora of flaws, I still believe in the death penalty. It has rid the world of several individuals who would have only caused more devastation in our society. This why I propose that there should not be people arguing over the morality of the death penalty but rather a people coming together to try to improve it so that the positive aspects outweigh the negative.

That’s the first step in this equation. It’s up to all of us to help create the second.

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