Death penalty is unfair retribution


Urmilla Kuttikad

End of the Line
Art by Michelle Zhuang
It’s easy in the United States to watch the world around us and judge it. We look at conflicts such as the ongoing genocide in Syria and feel proud that we’re not like that, that our hands aren’t blood-stained, that we know the value of a human life.
And yet.
The deplorable institution called the “death penalty,” or “capital punishment” for those gentler souls who can’t handle the former term, exists within our borders. Our government, a body we trust to prevent those things we believe to be wrong, murders people. Why, that’s a crime punishable by the death penalty.
But instead of killing the death penalty like we kill all those criminals, we instead condone it, applaud it even. A staggering 1,321 executions occurred in the United States since 1976, according to
People can’t murder, but our government, incidentally a body of people trusted to enforce the law, can. We shouldn’t be in the business of making drastic exceptions for the government.
The United States is not among the 141 countries around the world that have already abolished the death penalty. In fact, the United States holds a place in the top five nations responsible for death by capital punishment, only behind China, Iran, North Korea and Yemen, according to Our nation holds fifth place with what I hope is deepest shame.
The issue at hand is one simply of morality. These are human lives we’re toying with, not some formulaic machines, and the murder of a human life is fundamentally wrong.
Killing someone who has done something very bad is no different from murdering someone who has done nothing wrong. Murder is murder, and there is no justification for it. It is no more complex than that, no messier. There are no shades of gray to be found here.
People often parrot Mohandas Gandhi’s famous quote, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” a concept that condemns revenge. Yet, according to a recent poll on, American approval of capital punishment is at a strong 63 percent. This popular opinion on vengeful murder fundamentally contradicts Gandhi’s belief of turning the other cheek.
While murdering murderers may seem like a sort of justice, it is simply revenge by another name, and lowers our entire society to the level of criminals and corrupts our standards.
But if morality isn’t enough, there is a logical arsenal of arguments against the death penalty.
The cost of a death penalty case is exaggeratedly large when compared to that of a non-death-penalty case. A 2008 California study by the California Commission for the Fair Administration of Justice showed that the current system costs a whopping $137 million per year in California alone, whereas a non-death penalty system would cost only $11.5 million.
The money wasted on government-endorsed murder could instead go toward more valid measures of crime control such as rehabilitation and education, better and more comprehensive mental health treatment and more secure jails.
Mistakes are made unforgivably frequently when convicting people to death. Since 1973 in the United States, 140 people have been released from the death row because of wrongful conviction, and in that same time span, the government executed more than 1,200 individuals, according to
There’s no room for error when we’re playing with human lives, and if there is some, we shouldn’t be playing. The courts released the 140 because the evidence proving their innocence was able to show up just in time to save them. There’s no way to know how many other cases there must have been where the evidence simply didn’t show up in time, how many times the United States government carelessly murdered innocent lives with utterly no repercussions.
It seems, at times, that we’re scared to deny those who were close to the victims of murder the justice they want. They’ve been through so much horror and pain, and what sort of monsters would we be to deny them the little relief they can get?
But the justice that the friends and families of murder victims want is murder in return. They want this horrific person who caused them so much pain to be gone, to understand a little of their suffering.
They want revenge, and that is OK.
But, what isn’t OK is the government satisfying that need for revenge. Murder is awful, but the government doesn’t exist to sate our most base desires. A lifetime of incarceration is no escape from justice, in any case, and anyone who says otherwise is simply succumbing to their own base desires, something that has no place in government.
We must abolish the death penalty. It is outdated, tragic and fundamentally flawed. Contact your representatives, and ensure that your voice is heard. We’ll never be able to bring back all those lives that we’ve taken, but killing the despicable institution that is the death penalty is the best apology we’ve got.
By Urmila Kutikkad
 What is your take on this controversial topic?