Today I am tackling a controversial topic: the death penalty.
Why? Because Maryland has just outlawed it, becoming the 18th state to do so.
I am in favor of the death penalty.
So, I want to discuss some of the philosophical arguments for and against it.
I’ll start with the “right to life” argument: how can you be anti-abortion and pro-death penalty? That one’s quite simple. There is a huge difference difference between an innocent child that hasn’t even had a chance to do anything wrong and an adult who chose to commit heinous crimes.
There is also, of course, the concern over putting to death someone who is actually innocent. I, too, wish to avoid this, and the solution to this argument is also simple. Only give the death penalty when there is no doubt the defendant is guilty. The evidence would have to be really convincing for me to say that the person really deserves to be put to death.
Opponents of the death penalty often claim that it’s racist, meaning more black guys are put to death than white guys. I absolutely deplore any use of race as evidence for or against someone’s criminality (he’s black, therefore he’s guilty!). This, however, is not an actual argument against the death penalty, but in how it is administered. According to this argument, as long as the death penalty is being administered in a non-racist way, it’s okay.
Opponents also often claim that the death penalty is not an effective deterrent to criminal behavior. As no one to my knowledge has actually produced any evidence to support this claim, I think it can be safely ignored.
For it to work as a deterrent, the death penalty needs to be applied fairly, routinely, and swiftly. By “routinely” I do not mean “often,” but for every time a certain class of crime is committed, with no exceptions for ethnicity, wealth, “mitigating circumstances” (ex. my daddy didn’t love me!), etc. If some murderers get off with life in prison for some sob story about their childhood, the death penalty sure does lose a lot of its deterrence.
Some people react to supporters of the death penalty as if we advocated it for kids who steal a pack of bubblegum, or poverty-stricken parents who steal a loaf of bread to feed their kids. I’m advocating it for people who brutally rape and murder other people.
(I was originally in favor of the death penalty for rapists who are not murderers, until it was pointed out to me that that incentivizes murder, so now I’m in favor of chemical castration for them. [That last comment was somewhat facetious.])
Anyway, back to my point. The death penalty is for the absolute worst kind of criminals – those who don’t even deserve to be counted among humanity any more. Those who hurt, kill, and mutilate just because they can or they think it’s fun.
That’s my two cents. Give yours in the comments!