Death penalty: Inhumane but necessary


Courtesy of BBC

Capital punishment is a contentious topic that permeates our justice system and society. For thousands of years, criminals have been executed in various ways, many by completely barbaric methods.

That is no longer the case in the U.S. Today, capital punishment (in more left-leaning states, at least) has gone down significantly. When it is used, however, it is done by lethal injection. Lethal injection is where a person is strapped to a table and injected with various chemicals that first make them unconscious and then stop their heart, ending their life.

It is the most common method of capital punishment now, due to it being seen as the most humane method of execution. This may be true compared to older methods like hanging, decapitation, firing squad (the last in the U.S. was in the 1970s) and, the most painful, the electric chair.

The question is: Should lethal injection be used at all? There has been controversy over whether or not lethal injection is really that humane, considering the possibility that the drug that paralyzes the body doesn’t render one unconscious, and instead makes the victim more uncomfortable without the ability to tell anybody they’re still aware.

Personally, I believe that the death penalty is a good thing for three reasons

The first is that life in prison (as a general punishment) for violent, homicidal crimes can be expensive.

The second is that many of these people don’t have much remorse despite the severity of their crimes and are likely to reoffend if they are ever released or escape.

The third reason, more along the topic of humane treatment, is that today’s for-profit prisons are overcrowded and solitary confinement is psychologically cruel to inmates. When a criminal is on death row, they are put in solitary confinement, awaiting death for decades. This could be considered well-deserved, but if their punishment was death, and death alone, why extend it? The wheels of prison bureaucracy should turn faster. Maybe I don’t understand prison politics, but it seems obvious that this would be for the greater good.

However, just because I said capital punishment is good, that doesn’t mean I am enthusiastic about it or find it humane or practical. An execution by lethal injection is extremely expensive to taxpayers. In places like China, a death sentence is carried out via a single bullet to the head, and then that bullet is mailed to the family of the executed. This may seem ugly to Americans, but this quick, simple method is far better than executions that can last upward of seven minutes. We don’t really understand the ethics of injection, despite it being considered such a humane way to execute a person.

Either way, while I don’t really like the idea of killing or making someone suffer, choosing between death or lifelong imprisonment is a nasty dilemma for prisons with so many death row inmates. None of these options are humane at all, to be honest, but something has to be done about violent criminals incapable of being reintroduced to society. I guess, in the end, they have already condemned themselves through their actions.

Reed McCoy can be reached at [email protected] or @ReedMcCoy6 on Twitter.