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Arguments and reasons to be against the death penalty

Updated on October 19, 2013

Argument one: The death penalty doesn't work

Any form of sentence should attempt to meet the aims of sentencing. These are retribution, rehabilitation, protection and prevention.One of the best arguments for the death penalty is that the one of these that the that death penalty successfully fulfills its retribution and generally western legal systems no longer consider retribution a primary factor when sentencing because the eye for an eye mentality is no longer seen as relevant or helpful.

Statistics show that the death penalty does not protect people. Homicide and violent crime rates don't go down when you have the death penalty and in fact there is some evidence to suggest that they actually go up. This is because violent offenders generally aren't considering the consequences of their actions, this is why the death penalty doesn't work as a deterrent. Deterrents only work when you are dealing with rational people who consider the consequences of their actions which violent criminals most the time don't.

Western prisons are so safe these days that they are equally capable of keeping violent criminals off the streets as the death penalty is. If parole is given to lightly or prisons aren't secure enough then that is simply an argument for fixing those things but it is not one of the better arguments for the death penalty.

The reason the death penalty doesn't rehabilitate is probably fairly self-evident. Whilst true that many violent offenders probably have no hope of rehabilitation, there are few that do and sentencing often young offenders to the death penalty means that two lives are completely wasted instead of just one.

Argument two: The death penalty is morally wrong

by having the death penalty we are effectively sinking to the same level as those we are trying to punish. While people disagree on ethics and moral codes most people agree that killing is fundamentally wrong. Even if killing people would have better consequences it still morally the wrong thing to do. Mercy is objectively a good thing and retribution isn't. This doesn't mean that we should let violent criminals on the streets but means that we needn't sink to there level and kill them just like they killed the victims.

Argument three: Violence begets more violence

One of the best arguments for the death penalty is that if we really want to promote a nonviolent society our legal system needs to set the example. If we want people to be less violent than we need our judicial system to be nonviolent. If we as a society are saying killing people is an acceptable method of dealing with a problem than other people will interpret that as a green light to use killing to fix their problems. The only real way to stop violence is to promote the sanctity of life and send a clear message to society that killing isn't okay under any circumstances and it's impossible to do that while the state itself is killing people.

Argument four: The death penalty carries with it the risk of executing innocent men

Over the years several people have been killed by the state for crimes they did not commit. Every few years in another case is discovered where a man was executed for a crime of which they are later found innocent. This is one of the better arguments against the death penalty because it appeals to peoples sense of natural justice. It seems that we should prioritize the rights of the innocent ahead of the need to execute criminals. While an innocent person can be released from jail nothing can bring them back to life. The death penalty, if nothing else is permanent. Anyone who advocates the death penalty must be prepared to say how many innocent people they are prepared to have killed in order to keep the death penalty in place.

Argument five: The death penalty is expensive

Many people might be surprised that this is in fact one argument against the death penalty because they believe that it is cheaper than keeping a criminal alive indefinitely imprisoned. They are in fact wrong. Nearly all major studies have concluded that the death penalty is in fact more expensive than life imprisonment because of the extensive appeals process which is associated with the death penalty. When the death penalty is being considered there are so many more legal avenues people pursue which cost the state thousands of dollars each day. It is cheaper to simply lock people up and throw away the key than it is to go through that extensive process.

Argument six: The death penalty is cruel and unusual

while many might say that this is one of the weaker arguments of the death penalty, I strongly believe that it is in fact valid. Locking someone up in a cell and telling them are going to be killed on this date. This sadistic and the level to which we should sink. It is a sense of worse than what many criminals subjected their victims to.

Argument seven: Our criminal justice system is not proportional

Those who argue with arguments against the death penalty often point out that criminals who kill deserve to be killed and while this seems to make sense on an intuitive level it is and how our criminal justice system operates. We do not rob from robbers, rape rapists or violently assault those who violently assaulted others therefore it makes no sense but we should kill murderers simply because they killed other people. We have moved past that stage of old fashioned justice.

Argument nine: The death penalty can be carried out humanely

There is simply no method currently in use which can kill people humanely. Hanging people can go horribly wrong if the measurements aren't gotten right and the rope fails to snap the victims neck. Firing squads can fail to kill their victims instantly and instead leave them bleeding out with several bullet wounds in the chest. The electric chair can literally cook people live and leave them with severe burns but not dead. Even a lethal injection has been known not to kill its victims and instead simply cause severe internal pain. Even when it does kill them, some speculate that immense internal pain is still felt.


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    • KC3Lady profile image

      Kelly Ann Christensen 

      3 weeks ago from Johnson County, Kansas

      There is a high burden of proof for the death penalty, and some methods are more humane than others. One of the functions of our legal system is to serve as a deterrent. There is a balance that sometimes appears to be lost on some. One of the purposes of the criminal justice system is to protect the innocent, such as incarcerating those who are not safe to be in society. It has been several years, but the last statistics I read were that it costs taxpayers $60,000 a year to keep a prisoner in prison. I am at a loss as to how someone could conclude life imprisonment is cheaper for taxpayers.


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