The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution clearly asserts there shall be no cruel and unusual punishment administered to any one person. If the document outlining the beliefs of our nation says this, then why is the death penalty being used as a form of justice?
The last time the state of Missouri saw the death penalty issued was in February of 2011 with the execution of Martin Link. Link, charged with the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in 1991, sat in jail for nearly two decades before he was executed by lethal injection. Yes, he committed a heinous crime, but does that give the government the right to commit the same heinous act against him?
This nation is built upon laws and a societal moral compass that has taught us murder is wrong. However, when the government commits the same crime against a guilty person, it’s generally accepted and even supported. Are we really so barbaric that we have reduced ourselves to follow this prehistoric eye-for-an-eye philosophy? We live in such an advanced age of technology, yet when we look at human rights, we seem to be stuck in a very old-fashioned mindset.
Besides the moral issues of the death penalty, the process of convicting and executing a person can cost the state thousands of dollars. In fact, states such as Texas, Kansas and California have all done studies that have found the death penalty to be more expensive than sentencing a criminal to life in prison. While the state of Missouri has not conducted a study like this, it’s likely to be brought up in the 2013 legislative session. State Senator Joseph Keaveny, a Democrat from the 4th district, plans to propose a bill that would enable this type of study to be carried out.
Not only are execution chambers and lethal drugs expensive, but legal fees from numerous court appeals can become a costly endeavor for the state. In the Kansas death penalty study conducted by the state's Legislative Post Audit Committee, it was found that, in trials alone, a case in which the criminal was sentenced to death would cost around 70 percent more than in cases where the criminal was not sentenced to death. The study found the median of the cost for one prisoner sentenced to death to be $1.2 million, compared to a median of $750,000 for a prisoner not sentenced to death. Out of the 14 cases studied, the state absorbed 85 percent of the cost — a hefty $1,020,000.
If the death penalty is really going to cost the taxpayer that much money, than why do those who feel so strongly about it still care to implement it? Yes, action should be taken against these criminals, but do taxpayers really want it to come from their own pocket? There are thousands of other productive uses for this money. It’s not just that the state is basically throwing away money, but that it’s taking away our opportunity to grow, both as a state and as a nation. Think of all the programs that keep getting cut from the budget each year. Public schools are receiving less funding than ever, and instead of supplying these kids with art classes or extracurricular activities, we’re using it to kill.
Are these really the values we want to teach the next generation? We are not just morally obligated to abolish this inhumane practice — we are fiscally obligated to do so for the betterment of our world. After all, if we don’t abolish it, then we’re committing treason against the document we solemnly swear by.
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