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Essays About the Death Penalty: Top 5 Examples and Prompts

The death penalty is a major point of contention all around the world. Read our guide so you can write well-informed essays about the death penalty. 

Out of all the issues at the forefront of public discourse today, few are as hotly debated as the death penalty. As its name suggests, the death penalty involves the execution of a criminal as punishment for their transgressions. The death penalty has always been, and continues to be, an emotionally and politically charged essay topic.

Arguments about the death penalty are more motivated by feelings and emotions; many proponents are people seeking punishment for the killers of their loved ones, while many opponents are mourning the loss of loved ones executed through the death penalty. There may also be a religious aspect to support and oppose the policy. 

1. The Issues of Death Penalties and Social Justice in The United States (Author Unknown)

2. serving justice with death penalty by rogelio elliott, 3. can you be christian and support the death penalty by matthew schmalz, 4.  death penalty: persuasive essay by jerome glover, 5. the death penalty by kamala harris, top 5 writing prompts on essays about the death penalty, 1. death penalty: do you support or oppose it, 2. how has the death penalty changed throughout history, 3. the status of capital punishment in your country, 4. death penalty and poverty, 5. does the death penalty serve as a deterrent for serious crimes, 6. what are the pros and cons of the death penalty vs. life imprisonment , 7. how is the death penalty different in japan vs. the usa, 8. why do some states use the death penalty and not others, 9. what are the most common punishments selected by prisoners for execution, 10. should the public be allowed to view an execution, 11. discuss the challenges faced by the judicial system in obtaining lethal injection doses, 12. should the death penalty be used for juveniles, 13. does the death penalty have a racial bias to it.

“Executing another person only creates a cycle of vengeance and death where if all of the rationalities and political structures are dropped, the facts presented at the end of the day is that a man is killed because he killed another man, so when does it end? Human life is to be respected and appreciated, not thrown away as if it holds no meaningful value.”

This essay discusses several reasons to oppose the death penalty in the United States. First, the author cites the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, saying that the death penalty is inhumane and deprives people of life. Human life should be respected, and death should not be responded to with another death. In addition, the author cites evidence showing that the death penalty does not deter crime nor gives closure to victims’ families. 

Check out these essays about police brutality .

“Capital punishment follows the constitution and does not break any of the amendments. Specific people deserve to be punished in this way for the crime they commit. It might immoral to people but that is not the point of the death penalty. The death penalty is not “killing for fun”. The death penalty serves justice. When justice is served, it prevents other people from becoming the next serial killer. It’s simple, the death penalty strikes fear.”

Elliott supports the death penalty, writing that it gives criminals what they deserve. After all, those who commit “small” offenses will not be executed anyway. In addition, it reinforces the idea that justice comes to wrongdoers. Finally, he states that the death penalty is constitutional and is supported by many Americans.

“The letter states that this development of Catholic doctrine is consistent with the thought of the two previous popes: St. Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI. St. John Paul II maintained that capital punishment should be reserved only for “absolute necessity.” Benedict XVI also supported efforts to eliminate the death penalty. Most important, however, is that Pope Francis is emphasizing an ethic of forgiveness. The Pope has argued that social justice applies to all citizens. He also believes that those who harm society should make amends through acts that affirm life, not death.”

Schmalz discusses the Catholic position on the death penalty. Many early Catholic leaders believed that the death penalty was justified; however, Pope Francis writes that “modern methods of imprisonment effectively protect society from criminals,” and executions are unnecessary. Therefore, the Catholic Church today opposes the death penalty and strives to protect life.

“There are many methods of execution, like electrocution, gas chamber, hanging, firing squad and lethal injection. For me, I just watched once on TV, but it’s enough to bring me nightmares. We only live once and we will lose anything we once had without life. Life is precious and can’t just be taken away that easily. In my opinion, I think Canada shouldn’t adopt the death penalty as its most severe form of criminal punishment.”

Glover’s essay acknowledges reasons why people might support the death penalty; however, he believes that these are not enough for him to support it. He believes capital punishment is inhumane and should not be implemented in Canada. It deprives people of a second chance and does not teach wrongdoers much of a lesson. In addition, it is inhumane and deprives people of their right to life. 

“Let’s be clear: as a former prosecutor, I absolutely and strongly believe there should be serious and swift consequences when one person kills another. I am unequivocal in that belief. We can — and we should — always pursue justice in the name of victims and give dignity to the families that grieve. But in our democracy, a death sentence carried out by the government does not constitute justice for those who have been put to death and proven innocent after the fact.”

This short essay was written by the then-presidential candidate and current U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris to explain her campaign’s stance on the death penalty. First, she believes it does not execute justice and is likely to commit injustice by sentencing innocent people to death. In addition, it is said to disproportionally affect nonwhite people. Finally, it is more fiscally responsible for abolishing capital punishment, as it uses funds that could be used for education and healthcare. 

Essays About Death Penalty

This topic always comes first to mind when thinking of what to write. For a strong argumentative essay, consider the death penalty and list its pros and cons. Then, conclude whether or not it would be beneficial to reinstate or keep the policy. There is an abundance of sources you can gather inspiration from, including the essay examples listed above and countless other online sources.

People have been put to death as a punishment since the dawn of recorded history, but as morals and technology have changed, the application of the death penalty has evolved. This essay will explore how the death penalty has been used and carried out throughout history.

This essay will examine both execution methods and when capital punishment is ordered. A few points to explore in this essay include:

  • Thousands of years ago, “an eye for an eye” was the standard. How were executions carried out in ancient history?
  • The religious context of executions during the middle ages is worth exploring. When was someone burned at the stake?
  • The guillotine became a popular method of execution during the renaissance period. How does this method compare to both ancient execution methods and modern methods?
  • The most common execution methods in the modern era include the firing squad, hanging, lethal injections, gas chambers, and electrocution. How do these methods compare to older forms of execution?

Choose a country, preferably your home country, and look into the death penalty status: is it being implemented or not? If you wish, you can also give a brief history of the death penalty in your chosen country and your thoughts. You do not necessarily need to write about your own country; however, picking your homeland may provide better insight. 

Critics of the death penalty argue that it is anti-poor, as a poor person accused of a crime punishable by death lacks the resources to hire a good lawyer to defend them adequately. For your essay, reflect on this issue and write about your thoughts. Is it inhumane for the poor? After all, poor people will not have sufficient resources to hire good lawyers, regardless of the punishment. 

This is one of the biggest debates in the justice system. While the justice system has been set up to punish, it should also deter people from committing crimes. Does the death penalty do an adequate job at deterring crimes? 

This essay should lay out the evidence that shows how the death penalty either does or does not deter crime. A few points to explore in this essay include:

  • Which crimes have the death penalty as the ultimate punishment?
  • How does the murder rate compare to states that do not have the death penalty in states with the death penalty?
  • Are there confounding factors that must be taken into consideration with this comparison? How do they play a role?

Essays about the Death Penalty: What are the pros and cons of the death penalty vs. Life imprisonment? 

This is one of the most straightforward ways to explore the death penalty. If the death penalty is to be removed from criminal cases, it must be replaced with something else. The most logical alternative is life imprisonment. 

There is no “right” answer to this question, but a strong argumentative essay could take one side over another in this death penalty debate. A few points to explore in this essay include:

  • Some people would rather be put to death instead of imprisoned in a cell for life. Should people have the right to decide which punishment they accept?
  • What is the cost of the death penalty versus imprisoning someone for life? Even though it can be expensive to imprison someone for life, remember that most death penalty cases are appealed numerous times before execution.
  • Would the death penalty be more acceptable if specific execution methods were used instead of others?

Few first-world countries still use the death penalty. However, Japan and the United States are two of the biggest users of the death sentence.

This is an interesting compare and contrast essay worth exploring. In addition, this essay can explore the differences in how executions are carried out. Some of the points to explore include:

  • What are the execution methods countries use? The execution method in the United States can vary from state to state, but Japan typically uses hanging. Is this considered a cruel and unusual punishment?
  • In the United States, death row inmates know their execution date. In Japan, they do not. So which is better for the prisoner?
  • How does the public in the United States feel about the death penalty versus public opinion in Japan? Should this influence when, how, and if executions are carried out in the respective countries?

In the United States, justice is typically administered at the state level unless a federal crime has been committed. So why do some states have the death penalty and not others?

This essay will examine which states have the death penalty and make the most use of this form of punishment as part of the legal system. A few points worth exploring in this essay include:

  • When did various states outlaw the death penalty (if they do not use it today)?
  • Which states execute the most prisoners? Some states to mention are Texas and Oklahoma.
  • Do the states that have the death penalty differ in when the death penalty is administered?
  • Is this sentence handed down by the court system or by the juries trying the individual cases in states with the death penalty?

It might be interesting to see if certain prisoners have selected a specific execution method to make a political statement. Numerous states allow prisoners to select how they will be executed. The most common methods include lethal injections, firing squads, electric chairs, gas chambers, and hanging. 

It might be interesting to see if certain prisoners have selected a specific execution method to make a political statement. Some of the points this essay might explore include:

  • When did these different execution methods become options for execution?
  • Which execution methods are the most common in the various states that offer them?
  • Is one method considered more “humane” than others? If so, why?

One of the topics recently discussed is whether the public should be allowed to view an execution.

There are many potential directions to go with this essay, and all of these points are worth exploring. A few topics to explore in this essay include:

  • In the past, executions were carried out in public places. There are a few countries, particularly in the Middle East, where this is still the case. So why were executions carried out in public?
  • In some situations, individuals directly involved in the case, such as the victim’s loved ones, are permitted to view the execution. Does this bring a sense of closure?
  • Should executions be carried out in private? Does this reduce transparency in the justice system?

Lethal injection is one of the most common modes of execution. The goal is to put the person to sleep and remove their pain. Then, a cocktail is used to stop their heart. Unfortunately, many companies have refused to provide states with the drugs needed for a lethal injection. A few points to explore include:

  • Doctors and pharmacists have said it is against the oath they took to “not harm.” Is this true? What impact does this have?
  • If someone is giving the injection without medical training, how does this impact the prisoner?
  • Have states decided to use other more “harmful” modes of execution because they can’t get what they need for the lethal injection?

There are certain crimes, such as murder, where the death penalty is a possible punishment across the country. Even though minors can be tried as adults in some situations, they typically cannot be given the death penalty.

It might be interesting to see what legal experts and victims of juvenile capital crimes say about this important topic. A few points to explore include:

  • How does the brain change and evolve as someone grows?
  • Do juveniles have a higher rate of rehabilitation than adults?
  • Should the wishes of the victim’s family play a role in the final decision?

The justice system, and its unjust impact on minorities , have been a major area of research during the past few decades. It might be worth exploring if the death penalty is disproportionately used in cases involving minorities. 

It might be worth looking at numbers from Amnesty International or the Innocence Project to see what the numbers show. A strong essay might also propose ways to make justice system cases more equitable and fair. A few points worth exploring include:

  • Of the cases where the death penalty has been levied, what percentage of the cases involve a minority perpetrator?
  • Do stays of execution get granted more often in cases involving white people versus minorities?
  • Do white people get handed a sentence of life in prison without parole more often than people of minority descent?

If you’d like to learn more, our writer explains how to write an argumentative essay in this guide.

For help with your essay, check our round-up of best essay writing apps .

agree with death penalty essay

Martin is an avid writer specializing in editing and proofreading. He also enjoys literary analysis and writing about food and travel.

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Human Rights Careers

5 Death Penalty Essays Everyone Should Know

Capital punishment is an ancient practice. It’s one that human rights defenders strongly oppose and consider as inhumane and cruel. In 2019, Amnesty International reported the lowest number of executions in about a decade. Most executions occurred in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Egypt . The United States is the only developed western country still using capital punishment. What does this say about the US? Here are five essays about the death penalty everyone should read:

“When We Kill”

By: Nicholas Kristof | From: The New York Times 2019

In this excellent essay, Pulitizer-winner Nicholas Kristof explains how he first became interested in the death penalty. He failed to write about a man on death row in Texas. The man, Cameron Todd Willingham, was executed in 2004. Later evidence showed that the crime he supposedly committed – lighting his house on fire and killing his three kids – was more likely an accident. In “When We Kill,” Kristof puts preconceived notions about the death penalty under the microscope. These include opinions such as only guilty people are executed, that those guilty people “deserve” to die, and the death penalty deters crime and saves money. Based on his investigations, Kristof concludes that they are all wrong.

Nicholas Kristof has been a Times columnist since 2001. He’s the winner of two Pulitizer Prices for his coverage of China and the Darfur genocide.

“An Inhumane Way of Death”

By: Willie Jasper Darden, Jr.

Willie Jasper Darden, Jr. was on death row for 14 years. In his essay, he opens with the line, “Ironically, there is probably more hope on death row than would be found in most other places.” He states that everyone is capable of murder, questioning if people who support capital punishment are just as guilty as the people they execute. Darden goes on to say that if every murderer was executed, there would be 20,000 killed per day. Instead, a person is put on death row for something like flawed wording in an appeal. Darden feels like he was picked at random, like someone who gets a terminal illness. This essay is important to read as it gives readers a deeper, more personal insight into death row.

Willie Jasper Darden, Jr. was sentenced to death in 1974 for murder. During his time on death row, he advocated for his innocence and pointed out problems with his trial, such as the jury pool that excluded black people. Despite worldwide support for Darden from public figures like the Pope, Darden was executed in 1988.

“We Need To Talk About An Injustice”

By: Bryan Stevenson | From: TED 2012

This piece is a transcript of Bryan Stevenson’s 2012 TED talk, but we feel it’s important to include because of Stevenson’s contributions to criminal justice. In the talk, Stevenson discusses the death penalty at several points. He points out that for years, we’ve been taught to ask the question, “Do people deserve to die for their crimes?” Stevenson brings up another question we should ask: “Do we deserve to kill?” He also describes the American death penalty system as defined by “error.” Somehow, society has been able to disconnect itself from this problem even as minorities are disproportionately executed in a country with a history of slavery.

Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, and author. He’s argued in courts, including the Supreme Court, on behalf of the poor, minorities, and children. A film based on his book Just Mercy was released in 2019 starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx.

“I Know What It’s Like To Carry Out Executions”

By: S. Frank Thompson | From: The Atlantic 2019

In the death penalty debate, we often hear from the family of the victims and sometimes from those on death row. What about those responsible for facilitating an execution? In this opinion piece, a former superintendent from the Oregon State Penitentiary outlines his background. He carried out the only two executions in Oregon in the past 55 years, describing it as having a “profound and traumatic effect” on him. In his decades working as a correctional officer, he concluded that the death penalty is not working . The United States should not enact federal capital punishment.

Frank Thompson served as the superintendent of OSP from 1994-1998. Before that, he served in the military and law enforcement. When he first started at OSP, he supported the death penalty. He changed his mind when he observed the protocols firsthand and then had to conduct an execution.

“There Is No Such Thing As Closure on Death Row”

By: Paul Brown | From: The Marshall Project 2019

This essay is from Paul Brown, a death row inmate in Raleigh, North Carolina. He recalls the moment of his sentencing in a cold courtroom in August. The prosecutor used the term “closure” when justifying a death sentence. Who is this closure for? Brown theorizes that the prosecutors are getting closure as they end another case, but even then, the cases are just a way to further their careers. Is it for victims’ families? Brown is doubtful, as the death sentence is pursued even when the families don’t support it. There is no closure for Brown or his family as they wait for his execution. Vivid and deeply-personal, this essay is a must-read for anyone who wonders what it’s like inside the mind of a death row inmate.

Paul Brown has been on death row since 2000 for a double murder. He is a contributing writer to Prison Writers and shares essays on topics such as his childhood, his life as a prisoner, and more.

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About the author, emmaline soken-huberty.

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.

Round Separator

Arguments for and Against the Death Penalty

Click the buttons below to view arguments and testimony on each topic.

The death penalty deters future murders.

Society has always used punishment to discourage would-be criminals from unlawful action. Since society has the highest interest in preventing murder, it should use the strongest punishment available to deter murder, and that is the death penalty. If murderers are sentenced to death and executed, potential murderers will think twice before killing for fear of losing their own life.

For years, criminologists analyzed murder rates to see if they fluctuated with the likelihood of convicted murderers being executed, but the results were inconclusive. Then in 1973 Isaac Ehrlich employed a new kind of analysis which produced results showing that for every inmate who was executed, 7 lives were spared because others were deterred from committing murder. Similar results have been produced by disciples of Ehrlich in follow-up studies.

Moreover, even if some studies regarding deterrence are inconclusive, that is only because the death penalty is rarely used and takes years before an execution is actually carried out. Punishments which are swift and sure are the best deterrent. The fact that some states or countries which do not use the death penalty have lower murder rates than jurisdictions which do is not evidence of the failure of deterrence. States with high murder rates would have even higher rates if they did not use the death penalty.

Ernest van den Haag, a Professor of Jurisprudence at Fordham University who has studied the question of deterrence closely, wrote: “Even though statistical demonstrations are not conclusive, and perhaps cannot be, capital punishment is likely to deter more than other punishments because people fear death more than anything else. They fear most death deliberately inflicted by law and scheduled by the courts. Whatever people fear most is likely to deter most. Hence, the threat of the death penalty may deter some murderers who otherwise might not have been deterred. And surely the death penalty is the only penalty that could deter prisoners already serving a life sentence and tempted to kill a guard, or offenders about to be arrested and facing a life sentence. Perhaps they will not be deterred. But they would certainly not be deterred by anything else. We owe all the protection we can give to law enforcers exposed to special risks.”

Finally, the death penalty certainly “deters” the murderer who is executed. Strictly speaking, this is a form of incapacitation, similar to the way a robber put in prison is prevented from robbing on the streets. Vicious murderers must be killed to prevent them from murdering again, either in prison, or in society if they should get out. Both as a deterrent and as a form of permanent incapacitation, the death penalty helps to prevent future crime.

Those who believe that deterrence justifies the execution of certain offenders bear the burden of proving that the death penalty is a deterrent. The overwhelming conclusion from years of deterrence studies is that the death penalty is, at best, no more of a deterrent than a sentence of life in prison. The Ehrlich studies have been widely discredited. In fact, some criminologists, such as William Bowers of Northeastern University, maintain that the death penalty has the opposite effect: that is, society is brutalized by the use of the death penalty, and this increases the likelihood of more murder. Even most supporters of the death penalty now place little or no weight on deterrence as a serious justification for its continued use.

States in the United States that do not employ the death penalty generally have lower murder rates than states that do. The same is true when the U.S. is compared to countries similar to it. The U.S., with the death penalty, has a higher murder rate than the countries of Europe or Canada, which do not use the death penalty.

The death penalty is not a deterrent because most people who commit murders either do not expect to be caught or do not carefully weigh the differences between a possible execution and life in prison before they act. Frequently, murders are committed in moments of passion or anger, or by criminals who are substance abusers and acted impulsively. As someone who presided over many of Texas’s executions, former Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox has remarked, “It is my own experience that those executed in Texas were not deterred by the existence of the death penalty law. I think in most cases you’ll find that the murder was committed under severe drug and alcohol abuse.”

There is no conclusive proof that the death penalty acts as a better deterrent than the threat of life imprisonment. A 2012 report released by the prestigious National Research Council of the National Academies and based on a review of more than three decades of research, concluded that studies claiming a deterrent effect on murder rates from the death penalty are fundamentally flawed. A survey of the former and present presidents of the country’s top academic criminological societies found that 84% of these experts rejected the notion that research had demonstrated any deterrent effect from the death penalty .

Once in prison, those serving life sentences often settle into a routine and are less of a threat to commit violence than other prisoners. Moreover, most states now have a sentence of life without parole. Prisoners who are given this sentence will never be released. Thus, the safety of society can be assured without using the death penalty.

Ernest van den Haag Professor of Jurisprudence and Public Policy, Fordham University. Excerpts from ” The Ultimate Punishment: A Defense,” (Harvard Law Review Association, 1986)

“Execution of those who have committed heinous murders may deter only one murder per year. If it does, it seems quite warranted. It is also the only fitting retribution for murder I can think of.”

“Most abolitionists acknowledge that they would continue to favor abolition even if the death penalty were shown to deter more murders than alternatives could deter. Abolitionists appear to value the life of a convicted murderer or, at least, his non-execution, more highly than they value the lives of the innocent victims who might be spared by deterring prospective murderers.

Deterrence is not altogether decisive for me either. I would favor retention of the death penalty as retribution even if it were shown that the threat of execution could not deter prospective murderers not already deterred by the threat of imprisonment. Still, I believe the death penalty, because of its finality, is more feared than imprisonment, and deters some prospective murderers not deterred by the thought of imprisonment. Sparing the lives of even a few prospective victims by deterring their murderers is more important than preserving the lives of convicted murderers because of the possibility, or even the probability, that executing them would not deter others. Whereas the life of the victims who might be saved are valuable, that of the murderer has only negative value, because of his crime. Surely the criminal law is meant to protect the lives of potential victims in preference to those of actual murderers.”

“We threaten punishments in order to deter crime. We impose them not only to make the threats credible but also as retribution (justice) for the crimes that were not deterred. Threats and punishments are necessary to deter and deterrence is a sufficient practical justification for them. Retribution is an independent moral justification. Although penalties can be unwise, repulsive, or inappropriate, and those punished can be pitiable, in a sense the infliction of legal punishment on a guilty person cannot be unjust. By committing the crime, the criminal volunteered to assume the risk of receiving a legal punishment that he could have avoided by not committing the crime. The punishment he suffers is the punishment he voluntarily risked suffering and, therefore, it is no more unjust to him than any other event for which one knowingly volunteers to assume the risk. Thus, the death penalty cannot be unjust to the guilty criminal.”

Full text can be found at PBS.org .

Hugo Adam Bedau (deceased) Austin Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, Tufts University Excerpts from “The Case Against The Death Penalty” (Copyright 1997, American Civil Liberties Union)

“Persons who commit murder and other crimes of personal violence either may or may not premeditate their crimes.

When crime is planned, the criminal ordinarily concentrates on escaping detection, arrest, and conviction. The threat of even the severest punishment will not discourage those who expect to escape detection and arrest. It is impossible to imagine how the threat of any punishment could prevent a crime that is not premeditated….

Most capital crimes are committed in the heat of the moment. Most capital crimes are committed during moments of great emotional stress or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, when logical thinking has been suspended. In such cases, violence is inflicted by persons heedless of the consequences to themselves as well as to others….

If, however, severe punishment can deter crime, then long-term imprisonment is severe enough to deter any rational person from committing a violent crime.

The vast preponderance of the evidence shows that the death penalty is no more effective than imprisonment in deterring murder and that it may even be an incitement to criminal violence. Death-penalty states as a group do not have lower rates of criminal homicide than non-death-penalty states….

On-duty police officers do not suffer a higher rate of criminal assault and homicide in abolitionist states than they do in death-penalty states. Between l973 and l984, for example, lethal assaults against police were not significantly more, or less, frequent in abolitionist states than in death-penalty states. There is ‘no support for the view that the death penalty provides a more effective deterrent to police homicides than alternative sanctions. Not for a single year was evidence found that police are safer in jurisdictions that provide for capital punishment.’ (Bailey and Peterson, Criminology (1987))

Prisoners and prison personnel do not suffer a higher rate of criminal assault and homicide from life-term prisoners in abolition states than they do in death-penalty states. Between 1992 and 1995, 176 inmates were murdered by other prisoners; the vast majority (84%) were killed in death penalty jurisdictions. During the same period about 2% of all assaults on prison staff were committed by inmates in abolition jurisdictions. Evidently, the threat of the death penalty ‘does not even exert an incremental deterrent effect over the threat of a lesser punishment in the abolitionist states.’ (Wolfson, in Bedau, ed., The Death Penalty in America, 3rd ed. (1982))

Actual experience thus establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that the death penalty does not deter murder. No comparable body of evidence contradicts that conclusion.”

Click here for the full text from the ACLU website.

Retribution

A just society requires the taking of a life for a life.

When someone takes a life, the balance of justice is disturbed. Unless that balance is restored, society succumbs to a rule of violence. Only the taking of the murderer’s life restores the balance and allows society to show convincingly that murder is an intolerable crime which will be punished in kind.

Retribution has its basis in religious values, which have historically maintained that it is proper to take an “eye for an eye” and a life for a life.

Although the victim and the victim’s family cannot be restored to the status which preceded the murder, at least an execution brings closure to the murderer’s crime (and closure to the ordeal for the victim’s family) and ensures that the murderer will create no more victims.

For the most cruel and heinous crimes, the ones for which the death penalty is applied, offenders deserve the worst punishment under our system of law, and that is the death penalty. Any lesser punishment would undermine the value society places on protecting lives.

Robert Macy, District Attorney of Oklahoma City, described his concept of the need for retribution in one case: “In 1991, a young mother was rendered helpless and made to watch as her baby was executed. The mother was then mutilated and killed. The killer should not lie in some prison with three meals a day, clean sheets, cable TV, family visits and endless appeals. For justice to prevail, some killers just need to die.”

Retribution is another word for revenge. Although our first instinct may be to inflict immediate pain on someone who wrongs us, the standards of a mature society demand a more measured response.

The emotional impulse for revenge is not a sufficient justification for invoking a system of capital punishment, with all its accompanying problems and risks. Our laws and criminal justice system should lead us to higher principles that demonstrate a complete respect for life, even the life of a murderer. Encouraging our basest motives of revenge, which ends in another killing, extends the chain of violence. Allowing executions sanctions killing as a form of ‘pay-back.’

Many victims’ families denounce the use of the death penalty. Using an execution to try to right the wrong of their loss is an affront to them and only causes more pain. For example, Bud Welch’s daughter, Julie, was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Although his first reaction was to wish that those who committed this terrible crime be killed, he ultimately realized that such killing “is simply vengeance; and it was vengeance that killed Julie…. Vengeance is a strong and natural emotion. But it has no place in our justice system.”

The notion of an eye for an eye, or a life for a life, is a simplistic one which our society has never endorsed. We do not allow torturing the torturer, or raping the rapist. Taking the life of a murderer is a similarly disproportionate punishment, especially in light of the fact that the U.S. executes only a small percentage of those convicted of murder, and these defendants are typically not the worst offenders but merely the ones with the fewest resources to defend themselves.

Louis P. Pojman Author and Professor of Philosophy, U.S. Military Academy. Excerpt from “The Death Penalty: For and Against,” (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1998)

“[Opponents of the capital punishment often put forth the following argument:] Perhaps the murderer deserves to die, but what authority does the state have to execute him or her? Both the Old and New Testament says, “’Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Prov. 25:21 and Romans 12:19). You need special authority to justify taking the life of a human being.

The objector fails to note that the New Testament passage continues with a support of the right of the state to execute criminals in the name of God: “Let every person be subjected to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment…. If you do wrong, be afraid, for [the authority] does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13: 1-4). So, according to the Bible, the authority to punish, which presumably includes the death penalty, comes from God.

But we need not appeal to a religious justification for capital punishment. We can site the state’s role in dispensing justice. Just as the state has the authority (and duty) to act justly in allocating scarce resources, in meeting minimal needs of its (deserving) citizens, in defending its citizens from violence and crime, and in not waging unjust wars; so too does it have the authority, flowing from its mission to promote justice and the good of its people, to punish the criminal. If the criminal, as one who has forfeited a right to life, deserves to be executed, especially if it will likely deter would-be murderers, the state has a duty to execute those convicted of first-degree murder.”

National Council of Synagogues and the Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops Excerpts from “To End the Death Penalty: A Report of the National Jewish/Catholic Consultation” (December, 1999)

“Some would argue that the death penalty is needed as a means of retributive justice, to balance out the crime with the punishment. This reflects a natural concern of society, and especially of victims and their families. Yet we believe that we are called to seek a higher road even while punishing the guilty, for example through long and in some cases life-long incarceration, so that the healing of all can ultimately take place.

Some would argue that the death penalty will teach society at large the seriousness of crime. Yet we say that teaching people to respond to violence with violence will, again, only breed more violence.

The strongest argument of all [in favor of the death penalty] is the deep pain and grief of the families of victims, and their quite natural desire to see punishment meted out to those who have plunged them into such agony. Yet it is the clear teaching of our traditions that this pain and suffering cannot be healed simply through the retribution of capital punishment or by vengeance. It is a difficult and long process of healing which comes about through personal growth and God’s grace. We agree that much more must be done by the religious community and by society at large to solace and care for the grieving families of the victims of violent crime.

Recent statements of the Reform and Conservative movements in Judaism, and of the U.S. Catholic Conference sum up well the increasingly strong convictions shared by Jews and Catholics…:

‘Respect for all human life and opposition to the violence in our society are at the root of our long-standing opposition (as bishops) to the death penalty. We see the death penalty as perpetuating a cycle of violence and promoting a sense of vengeance in our culture. As we said in Confronting the Culture of Violence: ‘We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing.’ We oppose capital punishment not just for what it does to those guilty of horrible crimes, but for what it does to all of us as a society. Increasing reliance on the death penalty diminishes all of us and is a sign of growing disrespect for human life. We cannot overcome crime by simply executing criminals, nor can we restore the lives of the innocent by ending the lives of those convicted of their murders. The death penalty offers the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking life.’1

We affirm that we came to these conclusions because of our shared understanding of the sanctity of human life. We have committed ourselves to work together, and each within our own communities, toward ending the death penalty.” Endnote 1. Statement of the Administrative Committee of the United States Catholic Conference, March 24, 1999.

The risk of executing the innocent precludes the use of the death penalty.

The death penalty alone imposes an irrevocable sentence. Once an inmate is executed, nothing can be done to make amends if a mistake has been made. There is considerable evidence that many mistakes have been made in sentencing people to death. Since 1973, over 180 people have been released from death row after evidence of their innocence emerged. During the same period of time, over 1,500 people have been executed. Thus, for every 8.3 people executed, we have found one person on death row who never should have been convicted. These statistics represent an intolerable risk of executing the innocent. If an automobile manufacturer operated with similar failure rates, it would be run out of business.

Our capital punishment system is unreliable. A study by Columbia University Law School found that two thirds of all capital trials contained serious errors. When the cases were retried, over 80% of the defendants were not sentenced to death and 7% were completely acquitted.

Many of the releases of innocent defendants from death row came about as a result of factors outside of the justice system. Recently, journalism students in Illinois were assigned to investigate the case of a man who was scheduled to be executed, after the system of appeals had rejected his legal claims. The students discovered that one witness had lied at the original trial, and they were able to find another man, who confessed to the crime on videotape and was later convicted of the murder. The innocent man who was released was very fortunate, but he was spared because of the informal efforts of concerned citizens, not because of the justice system.

In other cases, DNA testing has exonerated death row inmates. Here, too, the justice system had concluded that these defendants were guilty and deserving of the death penalty. DNA testing became available only in the early 1990s, due to advancements in science. If this testing had not been discovered until ten years later, many of these inmates would have been executed. And if DNA testing had been applied to earlier cases where inmates were executed in the 1970s and 80s, the odds are high that it would have proven that some of them were innocent as well.

Society takes many risks in which innocent lives can be lost. We build bridges, knowing that statistically some workers will be killed during construction; we take great precautions to reduce the number of unintended fatalities. But wrongful executions are a preventable risk. By substituting a sentence of life without parole, we meet society’s needs of punishment and protection without running the risk of an erroneous and irrevocable punishment.

There is no proof that any innocent person has actually been executed since increased safeguards and appeals were added to our death penalty system in the 1970s. Even if such executions have occurred, they are very rare. Imprisoning innocent people is also wrong, but we cannot empty the prisons because of that minimal risk. If improvements are needed in the system of representation, or in the use of scientific evidence such as DNA testing, then those reforms should be instituted. However, the need for reform is not a reason to abolish the death penalty.

Besides, many of the claims of innocence by those who have been released from death row are actually based on legal technicalities. Just because someone’s conviction is overturned years later and the prosecutor decides not to retry him, does not mean he is actually innocent.

If it can be shown that someone is innocent, surely a governor would grant clemency and spare the person. Hypothetical claims of innocence are usually just delaying tactics to put off the execution as long as possible. Given our thorough system of appeals through numerous state and federal courts, the execution of an innocent individual today is almost impossible. Even the theoretical execution of an innocent person can be justified because the death penalty saves lives by deterring other killings.

Gerald Kogan, Former Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Excerpts from a speech given in Orlando, Florida, October 23, 1999 “[T]here is no question in my mind, and I can tell you this having seen the dynamics of our criminal justice system over the many years that I have been associated with it, [as] prosecutor, defense attorney, trial judge and Supreme Court Justice, that convinces me that we certainly have, in the past, executed those people who either didn’t fit the criteria for execution in the State of Florida or who, in fact, were, factually, not guilty of the crime for which they have been executed.

“And you can make these statements when you understand the dynamics of the criminal justice system, when you understand how the State makes deals with more culpable defendants in a capital case, offers them light sentences in exchange for their testimony against another participant or, in some cases, in fact, gives them immunity from prosecution so that they can secure their testimony; the use of jailhouse confessions, like people who say, ‘I was in the cell with so-and-so and they confessed to me,’ or using those particular confessions, the validity of which there has been great doubt. And yet, you see the uneven application of the death penalty where, in many instances, those that are the most culpable escape death and those that are the least culpable are victims of the death penalty. These things begin to weigh very heavily upon you. And under our system, this is the system we have. And that is, we are human beings administering an imperfect system.”

“And how about those people who are still sitting on death row today, who may be factually innocent but cannot prove their particular case very simply because there is no DNA evidence in their case that can be used to exonerate them? Of course, in most cases, you’re not going to have that kind of DNA evidence, so there is no way and there is no hope for them to be saved from what may be one of the biggest mistakes that our society can make.”

The entire speech by Justice Kogan is available here.

Paul G. Cassell Associate Professor of Law, University of Utah, College of Law, and former law clerk to Chief Justice Warren E. Burger. Statement before the Committee on the Judiciary, United States House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights Concerning Claims of Innocence in Capital Cases (July 23, 1993)

“Given the fallibility of human judgments, the possibility exists that the use of capital punishment may result in the execution of an innocent person. The Senate Judiciary Committee has previously found this risk to be ‘minimal,’ a view shared by numerous scholars. As Justice Powell has noted commenting on the numerous state capital cases that have come before the Supreme Court, the ‘unprecedented safeguards’ already inherent in capital sentencing statutes ‘ensure a degree of care in the imposition of the sentence of death that can only be described as unique.’”

“Our present system of capital punishment limits the ultimate penalty to certain specifically-defined crimes and even then, permit the penalty of death only when the jury finds that the aggravating circumstances in the case outweigh all mitigating circumstances. The system further provides judicial review of capital cases. Finally, before capital sentences are carried out, the governor or other executive official will review the sentence to insure that it is a just one, a determination that undoubtedly considers the evidence of the condemned defendant’s guilt. Once all of those decisionmakers have agreed that a death sentence is appropriate, innocent lives would be lost from failure to impose the sentence.”

“Capital sentences, when carried out, save innocent lives by permanently incapacitating murderers. Some persons who commit capital homicide will slay other innocent persons if given the opportunity to do so. The death penalty is the most effective means of preventing such killers from repeating their crimes. The next most serious penalty, life imprisonment without possibility of parole, prevents murderers from committing some crimes but does not prevent them from murdering in prison.”

“The mistaken release of guilty murderers should be of far greater concern than the speculative and heretofore nonexistent risk of the mistaken execution of an innocent person.”

Full text can be found here.

Arbitrariness & Discrimination

The death penalty is applied unfairly and should not be used.

In practice, the death penalty does not single out the worst offenders. Rather, it selects an arbitrary group based on such irrational factors as the quality of the defense counsel, the county in which the crime was committed, or the race of the defendant or victim.

Almost all defendants facing the death penalty cannot afford their own attorney. Hence, they are dependent on the quality of the lawyers assigned by the state, many of whom lack experience in capital cases or are so underpaid that they fail to investigate the case properly. A poorly represented defendant is much more likely to be convicted and given a death sentence.

With respect to race, studies have repeatedly shown that a death sentence is far more likely where a white person is murdered than where a Black person is murdered. The death penalty is racially divisive because it appears to count white lives as more valuable than Black lives. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, 296 Black defendants have been executed for the murder of a white victim, while only 31 white defendants have been executed for the murder of a Black victim. Such racial disparities have existed over the history of the death penalty and appear to be largely intractable.

It is arbitrary when someone in one county or state receives the death penalty, but someone who commits a comparable crime in another county or state is given a life sentence. Prosecutors have enormous discretion about when to seek the death penalty and when to settle for a plea bargain. Often those who can only afford a minimal defense are selected for the death penalty. Until race and other arbitrary factors, like economics and geography, can be eliminated as a determinant of who lives and who dies, the death penalty must not be used.

Discretion has always been an essential part of our system of justice. No one expects the prosecutor to pursue every possible offense or punishment, nor do we expect the same sentence to be imposed just because two crimes appear similar. Each crime is unique, both because the circumstances of each victim are different and because each defendant is different. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a mandatory death penalty which applied to everyone convicted of first degree murder would be unconstitutional. Hence, we must give prosecutors and juries some discretion.

In fact, more white people are executed in this country than black people. And even if blacks are disproportionately represented on death row, proportionately blacks commit more murders than whites. Moreover, the Supreme Court has rejected the use of statistical studies which claim racial bias as the sole reason for overturning a death sentence.

Even if the death penalty punishes some while sparing others, it does not follow that everyone should be spared. The guilty should still be punished appropriately, even if some do escape proper punishment unfairly. The death penalty should apply to killers of black people as well as to killers of whites. High paid, skillful lawyers should not be able to get some defendants off on technicalities. The existence of some systemic problems is no reason to abandon the whole death penalty system.

Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. President and Chief Executive Officer, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Inc. Excerpt from “Legal Lynching: Racism, Injustice & the Death Penalty,” (Marlowe & Company, 1996)

“Who receives the death penalty has less to do with the violence of the crime than with the color of the criminal’s skin, or more often, the color of the victim’s skin. Murder — always tragic — seems to be a more heinous and despicable crime in some states than in others. Women who kill and who are killed are judged by different standards than are men who are murderers and victims.

The death penalty is essentially an arbitrary punishment. There are no objective rules or guidelines for when a prosecutor should seek the death penalty, when a jury should recommend it, and when a judge should give it. This lack of objective, measurable standards ensures that the application of the death penalty will be discriminatory against racial, gender, and ethnic groups.

The majority of Americans who support the death penalty believe, or wish to believe, that legitimate factors such as the violence and cruelty with which the crime was committed, a defendant’s culpability or history of violence, and the number of victims involved determine who is sentenced to life in prison and who receives the ultimate punishment. The numbers, however, tell a different story. They confirm the terrible truth that bias and discrimination warp our nation’s judicial system at the very time it matters most — in matters of life and death. The factors that determine who will live and who will die — race, sex, and geography — are the very same ones that blind justice was meant to ignore. This prejudicial distribution should be a moral outrage to every American.”

Justice Lewis Powell United States Supreme Court Justice excerpts from McCleskey v. Kemp, 481 U.S. 279 (1987) (footnotes and citations omitted)

(Mr. McCleskey, a black man, was convicted and sentenced to death in 1978 for killing a white police officer while robbing a store. Mr. McCleskey appealed his conviction and death sentence, claiming racial discrimination in the application of Georgia’s death penalty. He presented statistical analysis showing a pattern of sentencing disparities based primarily on the race of the victim. The analysis indicated that black defendants who killed white victims had the greatest likelihood of receiving the death penalty. Writing the majority opinion for the Supreme Court, Justice Powell held that statistical studies on race by themselves were an insufficient basis for overturning the death penalty.)

“[T]he claim that [t]his sentence rests on the irrelevant factor of race easily could be extended to apply to claims based on unexplained discrepancies that correlate to membership in other minority groups, and even to gender. Similarly, since [this] claim relates to the race of his victim, other claims could apply with equally logical force to statistical disparities that correlate with the race or sex of other actors in the criminal justice system, such as defense attorneys or judges. Also, there is no logical reason that such a claim need be limited to racial or sexual bias. If arbitrary and capricious punishment is the touchstone under the Eighth Amendment, such a claim could — at least in theory — be based upon any arbitrary variable, such as the defendant’s facial characteristics, or the physical attractiveness of the defendant or the victim, that some statistical study indicates may be influential in jury decision making. As these examples illustrate, there is no limiting principle to the type of challenge brought by McCleskey. The Constitution does not require that a State eliminate any demonstrable disparity that correlates with a potentially irrelevant factor in order to operate a criminal justice system that includes capital punishment. As we have stated specifically in the context of capital punishment, the Constitution does not ‘plac[e] totally unrealistic conditions on its use.’ (Gregg v. Georgia)”

The entire decision can be found here.

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Should the Death Penalty Be Abolished?

In its last six months, the United States government has put 13 prisoners to death. Do you think capital punishment should end?

agree with death penalty essay

By Nicole Daniels

Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.

In July, the United States carried out its first federal execution in 17 years. Since then, the Trump administration has executed 13 inmates, more than three times as many as the federal government had in the previous six decades.

The death penalty has been abolished in 22 states and 106 countries, yet it is still legal at the federal level in the United States. Does your state or country allow the death penalty?

Do you believe governments should be allowed to execute people who have been convicted of crimes? Is it ever justified, such as for the most heinous crimes? Or are you universally opposed to capital punishment?

In “ ‘Expedited Spree of Executions’ Faced Little Supreme Court Scrutiny ,” Adam Liptak writes about the recent federal executions:

In 2015, a few months before he died, Justice Antonin Scalia said he w o uld not be surprised if the Supreme Court did away with the death penalty. These days, after President Trump’s appointment of three justices, liberal members of the court have lost all hope of abolishing capital punishment. In the face of an extraordinary run of federal executions over the past six months, they have been left to wonder whether the court is prepared to play any role in capital cases beyond hastening executions. Until July, there had been no federal executions in 17 years . Since then, the Trump administration has executed 13 inmates, more than three times as many as the federal government had put to death in the previous six decades.

The article goes on to explain that Justice Stephen G. Breyer issued a dissent on Friday as the Supreme Court cleared the way for the last execution of the Trump era, complaining that it had not sufficiently resolved legal questions that inmates had asked. The article continues:

If Justice Breyer sounded rueful, it was because he had just a few years ago held out hope that the court would reconsider the constitutionality of capital punishment. He had set out his arguments in a major dissent in 2015 , one that must have been on Justice Scalia’s mind when he made his comments a few months later. Justice Breyer wrote in that 46-page dissent that he considered it “highly likely that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment,” which bars cruel and unusual punishments. He said that death row exonerations were frequent, that death sentences were imposed arbitrarily and that the capital justice system was marred by racial discrimination. Justice Breyer added that there was little reason to think that the death penalty deterred crime and that long delays between sentences and executions might themselves violate the Eighth Amendment. Most of the country did not use the death penalty, he said, and the United States was an international outlier in embracing it. Justice Ginsburg, who died in September, had joined the dissent. The two other liberals — Justices Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — were undoubtedly sympathetic. And Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who held the decisive vote in many closely divided cases until his retirement in 2018, had written the majority opinions in several 5-to-4 decisions that imposed limits on the death penalty, including ones barring the execution of juvenile offenders and people convicted of crimes other than murder .

In the July Opinion essay “ The Death Penalty Can Ensure ‘Justice Is Being Done,’ ” Jeffrey A. Rosen, then acting deputy attorney general, makes a legal case for capital punishment:

The death penalty is a difficult issue for many Americans on moral, religious and policy grounds. But as a legal issue, it is straightforward. The United States Constitution expressly contemplates “capital” crimes, and Congress has authorized the death penalty for serious federal offenses since President George Washington signed the Crimes Act of 1790. The American people have repeatedly ratified that decision, including through the Federal Death Penalty Act of 1994 signed by President Bill Clinton, the federal execution of Timothy McVeigh under President George W. Bush and the decision by President Barack Obama’s Justice Department to seek the death penalty against the Boston Marathon bomber and Dylann Roof.

Students, read the entire article , then tell us:

Do you support the use of capital punishment? Or do you think it should be abolished? Why?

Do you think the death penalty serves a necessary purpose, like deterring crime, providing relief for victims’ families or imparting justice? Or is capital punishment “cruel and unusual” and therefore prohibited by the Constitution? Is it morally wrong?

Are there alternatives to the death penalty that you think would be more appropriate? For example, is life in prison without the possibility of parole a sufficient sentence? Or is that still too harsh? What about restorative justice , an approach that “considers harm done and strives for agreement from all concerned — the victims, the offender and the community — on making amends”? What other ideas do you have?

Vast racial disparities in the administration of the death penalty have been found. For example, Black people are overrepresented on death row, and a recent study found that “defendants convicted of killing white victims were executed at a rate 17 times greater than those convicted of killing Black victims.” Does this information change or reinforce your opinion of capital punishment? How so?

The Federal Death Penalty Act prohibits the government from executing an inmate who is mentally disabled; however, in the recent executions of Corey Johnson , Alfred Bourgeois and Lisa Montgomery , their defense teams, families and others argued that they had intellectual disabilities. What role do you think disability or trauma history should play in how someone is punished, or rehabilitated, after committing a crime?

How concerned should we be about wrongfully convicted people being executed? The Innocence Project has proved the innocence of 18 people on death row who were exonerated by DNA testing. Do you have worries about the fair application of the death penalty, or about the possibility of the criminal justice system executing an innocent person?

About Student Opinion

• Find all of our Student Opinion questions in this column . • Have an idea for a Student Opinion question? Tell us about it . • Learn more about how to use our free daily writing prompts for remote learning .

Students 13 and older in the United States and the United Kingdom, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

Nicole Daniels joined The Learning Network as a staff editor in 2019 after working in museum education, curriculum writing and bilingual education. More about Nicole Daniels

Amnesty International Logotype

DEATH PENALTY

We know that, together, we can end the death penalty everywhere., every day, people are executed and sentenced to death by the state as punishment for a variety of crimes – sometimes for acts that should not be criminalized. in some countries, it can be for drug-related offences, in others it is reserved for terrorism-related acts and murder..

Some countries execute people who were  under the age of 18  when the crime for which they have been convicted was committed, others use the death penalty against people with mental and intellectual disabilities and several others apply the death penalty after unfair trials – in clear violation of international law and standards. People can spend years on death row, not knowing when their time is up, or whether they will see their families one last time.

The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception – regardless of who is accused, the nature or circumstances of the crime, guilt or innocence or method of execution .

About the death penalty

Amnesty International holds that the death penalty breaches human rights, in particular the right to life and the right to live free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Both rights are protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , adopted by the UN in 1948.

Over time, the international community has adopted several instruments that ban the use of the death penalty, including the following:

  • The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
  • Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights, concerning the abolition of the death penalty, and Protocol No. 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights, concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances.
  • The Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Although international law says that the use of the death penalty must be restricted to the most serious crimes, meaning intentional killing, Amnesty International believes that the death penalty is never the answer.

Amnesty International has never felt more hopeful that this abhorrent punishment can and will be relegated to the annals of history Agnès Callamard, Secretary General, Amnesty International

Juvenile Executions

The use of the death penalty for crimes committed by people younger than 18 is prohibited under international human rights law, yet some countries still resort to the death penalty in these situations. Such executions are few compared to the total number of executions recorded by Amnesty International each year.

However, their significance goes beyond their number and calls into question the commitment of the executing states to respect international law.

Since 1990 Amnesty International has documented at least 163 executions of people who were below the age of 18, in 10 countries: China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Sudan, the USA and Yemen.

Several of these countries have changed their laws to exclude the practice. Iran has executed more than twice as many people who were below the age of 18 at the time of the crime as the other nine countries combined. At the time of writing Iran has executed at least 113 of them since 1990.

Execution Methods used in 2022

  • Lethal injection

Where do most executions take place?

In 2022, most known executions took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the USA – in that order.

China remained the world’s leading executioner  – but the true extent of its use of the death penalty is unknown as this data is classified as a state secret; the global figure of at least  883  excludes the thousands of executions believed to have been carried out there.

Excluding China, 90% of all reported executions took place in just three countries – Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The global view: death sentences and executions 2008-2022

*This map indicates the general locations of boundaries and jurisdictions and should not be interpreted as Amnesty International’s view on disputed territories.

**Country names listed reflect nomenclature in May 2023

How many death sentences and executions take place each year?

Death sentences.

Amnesty International recorded at least 2,016 death sentences in 52 countries in 2022, a slight decrease from the total of 2,052 reported in 2021. At least 28,282 people were known to be under sentence of death globally at the end of 2022.

Amnesty International recorded at least 883 executions in 20 countries in 2022, up by 53% from 2021 (at least 579 executions).

Reasons to abolish the death penalty

It is irreversible and mistakes happen.

Execution is the ultimate, irrevocable punishment: the risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated. Since 1973, for example, more than 191 prisoners sent to death row in the USA have later been exonerated or released from death row on grounds of innocence. Others have been executed despite serious doubts about their guilt.

It does not deter crime

Countries who execute commonly cite the death penalty as a way to deter people from committing crime. This claim has been repeatedly discredited, and there is no evidence that the death penalty is any more effective in reducing crime than life imprisonment.

It is often used within skewed justice systems

In many cases recorded by Amnesty International, people were executed after being convicted in grossly unfair trials, on the basis of torture-tainted evidence and with inadequate legal representation. In some countries death sentences are imposed as the mandatory punishment for certain offences, meaning that judges are not able to consider the circumstances of the crime or of the defendant before sentencing.

It is discriminatory

The weight of the death penalty is disproportionally carried by those with less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds or belonging to a racial, ethnic or religious minority. This includes having limited access to legal representation, for example, or being at greater disadvantage in their experience of the criminal justice system.

It is used as a political tool

The authorities in some countries, for example Iran and Sudan, use the death penalty to punish political opponents.

What is Amnesty International doing to abolish the death penalty?

For over 45 years, Amnesty International has been campaigning to abolish the death penalty around the world.

Amnesty International monitors its use by all states to expose and hold to account governments that continue to use the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.  We publish a report annually, reporting figures and analysing trends for each country . Amnesty International’s latest report, Death Sentences and Executions 2022 , was released in May 2023.

The organization’s work to oppose the death penalty takes many forms, including targeted, advocacy and campaign based projects in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia-Pacific, Americas and Europe and Central Asia , and Middle East and North Africa regions; strengthening national and international standards against its use, including by supporting the successful adoption of resolutions by the UN General Assembly on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty; and applying pressure on cases that face imminent execution. We also support actions and work by the abolitionist movement, at national, regional and global level.

When Amnesty International started its work in 1977, only 16 countries had totally abolished the death penalty. Today, that number has risen to 112 – more than half the world’s countries. More than two-thirds are abolitionist in law or practice.

Case Studies

Saved from death row: hafez ibrahim.

Thanks to Amnesty’s campaigning efforts, the execution of  Hafez Ibrahim , from Yemen, was stopped not once, but twice. Hafez, who was accused of a crime he insists he didn’t commit, first faced a firing squad in 2005. He was taken to a small yard in a Yemeni prison and brought before a row of officers with rifles in hand. He thought that moment would be his last.

Just before he was about to be shot, he was taken back to his cell, with no explanation. “I was lost, I did not understand what was happening. I later learned that Amnesty International had called on the Yemeni President to stop my execution and the message was heard,” Hafez said.

In 2007, Hafez was about to be executed again when he sent a mobile text message to Amnesty International. “They are about to execute us.” Hafez said.

It was a message that saved his life. The message sparked an international campaign, persuading the President to stop the execution for a second time.

Now Hafez is a lawyer helping juveniles who languish on death row corridors across Yemen.

a portrait of Hafex Ibrahim. He is wearing a white and grey striped shirt.

Activists on a mission: Souleymane Sow

Amnesty International’s work to abolish the death penalty is also bolstered by its incredible activists, who take it upon themselves to campaign against this abhorrent practice.

Souleymane Sow ,  has been volunteering with Amnesty International since he was a student in France. Inspired to make a difference, he returned to Guinea, set up a local group of Amnesty International volunteers and got to work. Their aim? To promote the importance of human rights, educate people on these issues and abolish the death penalty in Guinea. Along with 34 NGOs, they finally achieved their goal in 2017.

“My colleagues and I lobbied against the death penalty every day for five months. In 2016, Guinea’s National Assembly voted in favour of a new criminal code which removed the death sentence from the list of applicable penalties.  Last year [2017], they did the same in the military court, too,” said Souleymane.

“It was the first time so many NGOs had come together to campaign on an issue. People said they were happy with our work and they could see that change is possible. Most of all, it inspired us to continue campaigning.” 

It was such an incredible achievement – and it showed the importance of people power. Souleymane Sow

Related Content

Drc: reinstating executions shows a callous disregard for human rights, afghanistan: taliban must halt all executions and abolish death penalty, yemen: huthis must stop executions and release dozens facing lgbti charges, zimbabwe: cabinet’s move to abolish death penalty marks progress, lawyer kacey keeton details problems with the criminal justice system in alabama.

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Examining the Death Penalty: An Argumentative Perspective

Table of contents, death penalty arguments: deterrence and prevention, ethical considerations: the value of human life, implementation complexities: ensuring fairness, conclusion: weighing the arguments.

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IELTS band 9 essay: death penalty

Here you can find advice how to structure IELTS essay and IELTS model answer for death penalty topic. Question type: advantages and disadvantages .

Here is the question card:

Some people advocate death penalty for those who committed violent crimes. Others say that capital punishment is unacceptable in contemporary society.

Describe advantages and disadvantages of death penalty and give your opinion.

So this is the advantage/disadvantage essay. In this essay you're asked about :

  • Advantages of capital punishment
  • Disadvantages of capital punishment
  • Your opinion about it

Before writing this IELTS essay, you should decide what’s your opinion and then choose your arguments to describe pros and cons of death penalty. You don’t have to make up very complicate ideas. Even simple, but well-written arguments can often give you a band 9 for writing .

Some of the possible arguments :

  • Disadvantages of capital punishment :
  • we have no rights to kill other humans
  • innocent people can be killed because of unfair sentences
  • even criminals deserve a second chance
  • Advantages of capital punishment :
  • it prevents major crimes
  • it restores equilibrium of justice
  • it lessens expenses on maintenance of prisoners

How to structure my answer?

Surely, there are a lot of ways to organise this essay. But here is one possible way of structuring the answer to produce a band 9 essay :

Introduction : rephrase the topic and state your opinion.

Body paragraphs :

  • paragraph 1: disadvantages of death penalty
  • paragraph 2: advantages of death penalty

Conclusion : sum up the ideas from body paragraphs and briefly give your opinion.

Band 9 essay sample (death penalty)

Many people believe that death penalty is necessary to keep security system efficient in the society. While there are some negative aspects of capital punishment, I agree with the view that without it we will become more vulnerable to violence.

Death penalty can be considered unsuitable punishment for several reasons. The strongest argument is that we have no rights to kill other humans. Right to live is the basic right of any human being, and no one can infringe this right, irrespective of the person’s deeds. Moreover, innocent people can face wrongful execution. Such unfair sentences take away lives of innocent people and make other citizens lose faith in law and justice. And besides, sometimes criminals repent of their acts. In this case they should be given a second chance to improve themselves.

However, I believe that capital punishment is necessary in the society. Firstly, it is an effective deterrent of major crimes. The best method to prevent a person from committing crime is to show the consequences of his or her actions. For example, the government of Pakistan has controlled the rate of terrorism by enforcing death penalties for the members of terrorist organisations. Secondly, the governments spend large sums of national budget on maintenance of prisoners. Instead, this money can be used for the development of the society and welfare of the people.

To sum up, although capital punishment has some disadvantages, I think that it proves to be the best way of controlling criminals, lessening governmental expenses and preventing other people from doing crimes.

(257 words)

Useful vocabulary

capital punishment = death penalty

to commit a crime - to do a crime

deterrent of major crimes - something that prevents big crimes

to face wrongful execution - to be mistaken for a criminal and killed for that

to infringe someone’s right - restrict someone’s right, hurt someone’s interests

innocent people - people who are not guilty or responsible for crimes

to repent of something - to feel sorry for something

right to live is basic right of any human being

unfair sentence - not fair judgement

Persuasive Essay Writing

Persuasive Essay About Death Penalty

Cathy A.

Craft an Effective Argument: Examples of Persuasive Essay About Death Penalty

Published on: Jan 27, 2023

Last updated on: Jan 29, 2024

Persuasive Essay About Death Penalty

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No matter what topic we're discussing, there is usually a range of opinions and viewpoints on the issues. 

But when it comes to more serious matters like the death penalty, creating an effective argument can become tricky. 

Although this topic may be difficult to tackle, you can still write an engaging persuasive essay to convey your point.

In this blog post, we'll explore how you can use examples of persuasive essays on death penalty topics.

So put your rhetorical skills to the test, and let’s dive right into sample essays and tips. 

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What Do We Mean by a Persuasive Essay?

A persuasive essay is a type of writing that attempts to persuade the reader or audience.

This essay usually presents an argument supported by evidence and examples. The main aim is to convince the reader or audience to take action or accept a certain viewpoint. 

Persuasive essays may be written from a neutral or biased perspective and contain personal opinions.

To do this, you must provide clear reasoning and evidence to support your argument. Persuasive essays can take many forms, including speeches, letters, articles, and opinion pieces. 

It is important to consider the audience when writing a persuasive essay. The language used should be tailored to their understanding of the topic. 

Read our comprehensive guide on persuasive essays to know all about crafting excellent essays.

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Let's move on to some examples so that you can better understand this topic.

Persuasive Essay About Death Penalty Examples

Are you feeling stuck with the task of writing a persuasive essay about the death penalty? 

Looking for some examples to get your ideas flowing? 

You’re in luck — we’ve got just the thing! Take a look at these free downloadable examples.

Example of a Persuasive essay about death penalty

Persuasive essay about death penalty in the Philippines

Short Persuasive essay about death penalty

Persuasive essay about death penalty should be abolished

The death penalty pros and cons essay

Looking for some more examples on persuasive essays? Check out our blog about persuasive essay examples !

Argumentative Essay About Death Penalty Examples 

We have compiled some of the best examples to help you start crafting your essay.

These examples will provide dynamic perspectives and insights from real-world legal cases to personal essays. 

Have a look at them to get inspired!!

Argumentative essay about death penalty in the Philippines

Argumentative essay about death penalty with introduction body conclusion

Argumentative essay about death penalty should be abolished

Argumentative essay about death penalty conclusion

6 Tips To Write an A+ Persuasive Essay

We know it can be daunting to compose a perfect essay that effectively conveys your point of view to your readers. Worry no more. 

Simply follow these 6 tips, and you will be on your way to a perfect persuasive essay.

1. Understand the assignment and audience

 Before you start writing your essay, you must understand what type of essay you are being asked to write. Who your target audience should be?

Make sure you know exactly what you’re arguing for and against, as this will help shape your essay's content.

2. Brainstorm and research

Once you understand the topic better, brainstorm ideas that support your argument.

During this process, be sure to do additional research on any unfamiliar points or topics.

3. Create an outline

After doing your initial research, create an outline for your essay that includes all the main points you want to make. 

This will help keep your thoughts organized and ensure you cover all the necessary points cohesively.

Check out our extensive guide on persuasive essay outlines to master the art of creating essays.

4. Make an argument

Use persuasive language and techniques to construct your essay. Strong evidence, such as facts and statistics, can also help to strengthen your argument.

5. Edit and revise 

Before you submit your essay, take the time to edit and revise it carefully. 

This will ensure that your argument is clear and concise and that there are no grammar or spelling errors.

6. Get feedback

Lastly, consider asking someone else to read over your essay before you submit it.

Feedback from another person can help you see any weaknesses in your argument or areas that need improvement. 

Summing up, 

Writing a persuasive essay about the death penalty doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With these examples and tips, you can be sure to write an essay that will impress your teacher.

Whether it’s an essay about the death penalty or any other controversial topic, you can ace it with these steps! 

Remember, the key is to be creative and organized in your writing!

Don't have time to write your essay? 

Don't stress! Leave it to us! Our persuasive essay writing service is here to help! 

Contact the team of experts at our essay writing service. We can help you write a creative, well-organized, and engaging essay for the reader. 

Our persuasive essay writer will write the best essay for you at affordable rates! Moreover, we provide free revisions and other exclusive perks!

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most persuasive argument for the death penalty.

The most persuasive argument for the death penalty is that it is a deterrent to violent crime. 

The idea is that by punishing criminals, other potential criminals will be less likely to act out of fear of similar punishment.

How do you start a persuasive speech on the death penalty?

When starting a persuasive speech on the death penalty, begin by introducing and defining the topic. Provide an overview of the controversial issue. 

Outline your points and arguments clearly, including evidence to support your position. 

What are good topics for persuasive essays?

Good topics for persuasive essays include 

  • Whether or not the death penalty is a fair punishment for violent crime
  • Whether harsher punishments will reduce crime rates
  • Will capital punishment is worth the costs associated with it
  • How rehabilitation should be taken into consideration when dealing with criminals.

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Death Penalty Essay

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Argumentative Essay on Against the Death Penalty

In the United States criminal justice system when a human being takes the life of another human being there are roughly two options for consequences; Life in prison with no possibility of parole or the death penalty. So, in regard to the death penalty, morality can define what justice may to be in a criminal punishment. Individuals who believe it is morally right to put an individual to death over a horrendous crime support the retentionist argument for the death penalty. Individuals who believe it is morally wrong to kill an individual, despite the crime committed are in support of the abolitionist argument of the death penalty. In the United States, there are thirty-one states in support of the death penalty and remaining nineteen states are against the death penalty law. As the death penalty can be a controversial topic is it important to consider all possible factors. The best approach to the death penalty is the principle of human dignity.

The principle of human dignity is an argument in abolishing the death penalty. The principle of human dignity presents an argument that gives all individuals equal rights regardless of decisions made in a criminal act. The principle of human dignity is an argument that a human being, in virtue of just being a human or person has intrinsic worth. This argument means that a human being is a human being and should always be treated as one. No matter the crime committed, one does not forfeit their right to life even if they have taken one. This argument in abolishing the death penalty can agree with tortures should not be tortured, drunk drivers not being hit with a vehicle, and individuals who are accused of arson should not be set on fire. The consequences for those crimes are excessive; the same thing occurs when in regards of the death penalty. When placing the idea of an eye for an eye on various crimes is seems extreme and unnecessary. A life for a life is excessive. Criminals do forfeit some rights to life, but not all rights to life. Punishments will happen for individuals committing these crimes, but there are punishments that fit the crimes being committed. For example, life in prison with no possibility of parole fits the punishment of first degree murder.

The principle of human dignity directly goes directly against the element of reciprocity. The element of reciprocity explains that we can forfeit our rights by our own actions. If a person violates someone’s right to life, this murderer forfeits his or her right to life. The argument claims the state is not taking anyone’s right away because if one took a life of someone else, they do not have a right themselves. The human dignity argument has the idea that human dignity should always be reserved. Human rights are given to an individual when born should be modified when committing crimes but never forfeited.

The principle of human dignity attempts to portray a message to lead individuals to believe that ending someone’s life says, a person doesn’t have any worth or value left. Individuals should never lose their respect for human dignity. Good or bad actions, all humans have emotions and can feel pain; at somewhat the same level. Individuals who do not agree with the principle of human dignity are in support of the death penalty. There are many factors that morality support the death penalty. Supports are in favor of taking the life of someone who committed a horrendous crime; a life for a life. Individuals who do not agree with the human dignity argument may attempt to argue that the death penalty is an effective consequence because it deters other criminals from committing the crimes. Continuing, it may be argued that the death penalty can show society its moral outrage at unpleasant crimes. Resulting in a decrease in the crime rates. Although this seems efficient, an individual who commits a crime already knowing the consequences. Life in prison with no possible chance of parole is enough to deter an individual of a crime who does not want to seek punishment.

Other supporters of the death penalty derive more from government than society. The government is considerably more in favor of the death penalty because of the costs. It is much cheaper in today’s economy to eliminate the criminals with the death penalty rather than to pay for them to live their entire life in prison. This argument is important to the government because it saves the government more money. Rather than having an inmate in prison and maintain the funds to support these prisoner’s lives, the government would rather choose to execute the criminals. Morally, this is the most incorrect argument regarding the death penalty. No amount of money is equivalent to the life of a human being. Not only is the death penalty decreasing the value of a human being’s life, it is putting the cost and expenses of keeping individuals alive, above their rights to life.

The death penalty is the wrong consequence more many reasons. Although, individuals are rarely put to death for crimes they did not commit, it does happen. To avoid wrongfully killing an individual for a crime they did not commit, the death penalty should not be used a punishment. Technology continues to advance every day. Scientist are figuring out new technology and experiments as we speak. If new advances in technology (regarding the criminal justice system) were to be discovered and the death penalty was not implemented, an individual would gain their rights and freedom back. A wrongfully committed individual can be released from prison, not brought back to life. Not all, but some crimes can be justified.

Although the death penalty has been used for thousands of years to punish criminals, in today’s society it is not as effective. The death penalty is such a controversial topic there will never be a correct answer. The arguments are all based on morals and views. Although there is no correct answer, there is a better answer. The human dignity argument gives all humans, equal rights; regardless is one made a criminal mistake or not. All humans have human dignity.

Capital Punishment Essay

J.R.R Tolkien once said, “many that live deserves death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.” The death penalty should be repealed because it’s very stressful for those involved, it is extremely expensive, and it has convicted innocent people.

One reason why the death penalty should be illegal is because it’s very stressful for those who are involved. According to Berman there were several officials begging for them to change the pace of executions because it imposes stress and trauma (Berman). This proves that carrying out several executions can take a severe toll on correction officers wellbeing. Berman states, “In a state review, authorities wrote that the execution team placed the IV incorrectly and that the officers involved described a feeling of extra stress and urgency because a second execution was scheduled for the same night” (Berman). This also proves that when there’s back to back executions scheduled it can stress the correction officers out and they can get nervous and mess up on something. In “With Lethal Injection Drugs Expiring” Berman states, “‘How can you expect them to do something of this magnitude? It’s rough,’ Givens who executed 62 people and now opposes the death penalty, said Friday. ‘I know the effect it can have on you when you participate in execution… It takes a while to really come out of that” (Berman). This proves that when working as a correction officer and you have to execute people it can be very traumatic and hard to get over which causes stress.

Another reason why the death penalty should be repealed is because it is extremely expensive. According to Jones and Eder, California had spent more than $8 billion on capital punishment since it was reinstated in 1928 (Jones and Eder). This proves that the states are spending billions of dollars just to execute people when that money could be going towards something more beneficial. Jones and Eder states, “The cost of housing a death row inmate outpaces the cost of housing a general-population prisoner by $100,000 a year, primarily because death- row inmates are housed alone instead of two-a-cell, and they require a higher level of security” (Jones and Eder). This proves that the cost of housing just one single death row inmate is very expensive. If housing just one is millions of dollars, than imagine how much money it is when housing multiple. In “Costs Test Backing For Death Penalty” Jones and Eder states, “The Alarcon study concluded jury selection alone in capital cases cost more than $200,000 above the amount for life without parole an that the death penalty prosecutors can cost 20 times as much as life-without parole” (Jones and Eder). This shows that capital cases cost a lot of money and is very expensive. It cost way more than it would cost if it was just life without parole.

Another reason why the death penalty should be repealed is because it kills innocent people. In the article “Time to Question Sanity of Death Penalty” Phillip Holloway states, “A study last year found that, at a conservative estimate, ‘more than 4% of inmates sentenced to death in the united states are probably innocent.’ indeed, there have been 330 executions based on DNA alone” (holloway). This quote proves that over 100 people has been put on death that are innocent. According to Holloway there was this man name Henry McCollum, who was in prison for 30 years on death row for the murder of an 11 year old girl which evidence showed that he did not do. This case proves that some death row cases are unfair and they convict innocent people. His whole life is thrown away over something he didn’t do which is unfair. Holloway states, “Some of the inmates appear to suffer from intellectual impairment and outlining qualms about the legal representation the men have had” (Holloway). People who don’t know better are put to death row, and many of them suffers disabilities and intellectual impairment. Why would you want to kill someone who suffer mental illnesses and doesn’t know better?

Even though many people feel that the death penalty should be abolished, there are many people who support it. People who support the death penalty says it saves lives. According to David Muhlhausen, “Professors Hashem Dezhbakhsh, Paul R. Rubin, and Joanna M. Shepherd of Emory University found that each execution, on average, results in fewer murders” (Muhlhausen). This can be proven wrong because according to Kyle Gibson, prison homicides have increased in the past year from 39 to 55, or a 44% increase (Gibson). People who support the death penalty also argue that it brings justice and closure to the victim’s family. In the article “Death Penalty Brings Relief to Victims’ Family” John Futty states, “She felt comforted to know that he will be put to death” (Futty). Even though many think it will bring closure, it can also bring stress and trauma on others such as those involved. Berman stated, “correction officers described a feeling of extra stress and urgency” (Berman).

Simply by repealing and/or making the death penalty illegal would make America way better. It doesn’t help or do anything to resolve the crime rate. The death penalty is senseless and discriminatory. There’s still crimes going on with the death penalty being legal. It brings nothing but stress, debt, and innocent lives lost.

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Death Penalty Essay Introduction — a Quick Guide

Table of Contents

The death penalty is a state-sanctioned practice where an individual is executed for an offense punishable through such means. Death penalty essay is a common topic given to students where the essay writer argues this controversial issue and takes a stand. The death penalty essay intro consists of the opening sentence, the background information, and the thesis statement.

Writing a compelling introduction isn’t easy. But with the tips and examples in this guide, you’ll be able to write a captivating introduction.

What Is a Death Penalty Essay?

The death penalty is the practice of executing a person guilty of capital murder, a crime in which the loss of life is intentional. This method of punishment has been around for as long as human civilization.

The death penalty has been controversial for a long time, with people on both sides of the fence. Supporters claim it works to deter crime, but there is no evidence to prove it. Opposers claim it is cruel and is not the best way to serve justice. 

A death penalty essay argues for or against the death penalty. This essay topic is a typical assignment given to college students. Common death penalty essay topics are as follows:

  • About the Death Penalty
  • Does the Death Penalty effectively deter crime?
  • The Death Penalty should not be legal
  • The Death Penalty should be abolished.
  • Death Penalty and Justice
  • Pro-Death Penalty
  • Is the Death Penalty Morally Right?
  • Death Penalty is Immoral
  • Religious Values and Death Penalty
  • Ineffectiveness of Death Penalty
  • Punishment and the Nature of the Crime
  • The Death Penalty and Juveniles.
  • Is the Death Penalty Effective?
  • The Death Penalty is Politically Just
  • The Death Penalty: Right or Wrong?
  • Abolishment of the Death Penalty
  • The Death Penalty and People’s Opinions
  • Is Death Penalty Humane?

How to Write an Interesting Death Penalty Essay Intro

Like other essays, the death penalty essay intro comprises three parts. The hook, a strong opening sentence, grips the reader, sparks their curiosity, and compels them to read the rest of the piece.

Subsequent sentences provide background information on the topic and define the argument’s terms. The last part is the thesis statement, which summarizes the central focus of the essay.

1. the Opening Sentence/Hook

The hook is a statement that grips the reader’s attention and makes them want to read on . The hook should be an exciting statement that sparks the readers’ curiosity, and sets the tone for the essay. It should give an overview of the topic. You could begin with a thought-provoking question, an interesting quote, an exciting anecdote, or a shocking statistic or fact. 

2. Background Information

Provide more information about the subject you are discussing. Create context and give background information on the topic. It could be a social or historical context. Define key terms that the reader might find confusing and clearly but concisely state why the issue is important.

3. Thesis Statement

The thesis statement is the overarching idea – the central focus of the essay. It summarizes the idea that you’ll be explaining throughout the entirety of the piece. Once this statement has been established, you’ll smoothly transition into the main body of your essay. Make the thesis clear and concise. 

Death Penalty Essay Introduction Example

Does the death penalty deter crime, especially murder? The death penalty has been controversial for years. Over the years, public opinion about the death penalty seems to have changed. But there are still people who think it is a proper punishment. I have heard the phrase “An eye for an eye” most of my life. Most people firmly believe that if a criminal took someone’s life, their lives should be taken away too. But I don’t think that will discourage anyone from committing crimes. I believe that the criminal should be given a lighter punishment. 

person writing on brown wooden table near white ceramic mug

The death penalty or capital punishment is the execution of a criminal by a government as punishment for a crime. In the United States, the death penalty is the most common form of sentence in murder cases.

A death penalty essay argues for or against the death penalty. The essay introduction begins with an attention-grabber , followed by background information on the topic and then the thesis statement.

Death Penalty Essay Introduction — a Quick Guide

Abir Ghenaiet

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

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March 19, 2024

Evidence Does Not Support the Use of the Death Penalty

Capital punishment must come to an end. It does not deter crime, is not humane and has no moral or medical basis

By The Editors

A woman protesting, holding a sign showing the Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

A death penalty vigil, held in 2021 outside an Indiana penitentiary.

Bryan Woolston/Reuters/Redux

It is long past time to abolish the death penalty in the U.S.

Capital punishment was halted in the U.S. in 1972 but reinstated in 1976, and since then, nearly 1,600 people have been executed. To whose gain? Study after study shows that the death penalty does not deter crime, puts innocent people to death , is racially biased , and is cruel and inhumane. It is state-sanctioned homicide, wholly ineffective, often botched, and a much more expensive punishment than life imprisonment. There is no ethical, scientifically supported, medically acceptable or morally justifiable way to carry it out.

The recent execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith demonstrates this barbarity. After a failed attempt at lethal injection by prison officials seemingly inexperienced in the placement of an IV, the state of Alabama killed Smith in January using nitrogen gas . The Alabama attorney general claimed that this method of execution was fast and humane , despite no supporting evidence. Eyewitnesses recounted that Smith thrashed during the nitrogen administration and took more than 20 minutes to die.

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Opposition to the death penalty is growing among the American public , and the Biden administration must follow through on its promise to end this horror. The Department of Justice must heed its own admission that the death penalty doesn’t stop crime, and our legislators must continue to take up the issue on the congressional floor. The few states that still condemn people to death must follow the lead of states that have considered the evidence and rejected capital punishment.

Programs such as the Innocence Project have shown, over and over, that innocent people have been sentenced to death. Since 1973 nearly 200 people on death row have been exonerated, based on appeals, the reopening of cases, and the entrance of new and sometimes previously suppressed evidence. People have recanted testimony, and supposedly airtight cases have been poked full of evidentiary holes.

Through the death penalty, the criminal justice system has killed at least 20 people now believed to have been innocent and uncounted others whose cases have not been reexamined . Too many of these victims have been Black or Hispanic. This is not justice. These are state-sanctioned hate crimes.

Using rigorous statistical and experimental control methods, both economics and criminal justice studies have consistently found that there is no evidence for deterrence of violent crimes in states that allow capital punishment. One such study, a 2009 paper by criminology researchers at the University of Dallas, outlines experimental and statistical flaws in econometrics-based death penalty studies that claim to find a correlated reduction in violent crime. The death penalty does not stop people from killing. Executions don’t make us safer.

The methods used to kill prisoners are inhumane. Electrocution fails , causing significant pain and suffering. Joel Zivot, an anesthesiologist who criticizes the use of medicines in carrying out the death penalty, has found (at the request of lawyers of death row inmates) that the lungs of prisoners who were killed by lethal injection were often heavy with fluid and froth that suggested they were struggling to breathe and felt like they were drowning. Nitrogen gas is used in some veterinary euthanasia, but based in part on the behavior of rats in its presence, it is “unacceptable” for mammals , according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. This means that Smith, as his lawyers claimed in efforts to stop his execution, became a human subject in an immoral experiment.

Courts have often decided, against the abundant evidence, that these killings are constitutional and do not fall under the “cruel and unusual punishment” clause of the 8th Amendment or, in Smith’s appeal , both the 8th Amendment and the due process protection clause of the 14th amendment.

A small number of prosecutors and judges in a few states, mostly in the South, are responsible for most of the death sentences being handed down in the U.S. today. It’s a power they should not be able to wield. Smith was sentenced to life in prison by a jury before the judge in his case overruled the jury and gave him the death sentence.

A furious urge for vengeance against those who have done wrong—or those we think have done wrong—is the biggest motivation for the death penalty. But this desire for violent retribution is the very impulse that our criminal justice system is made to check, not abet. Elected officials need to reform this aspect of our justice system at both the state and federal levels. Capital punishment does not stop crime and mocks both justice and humanity. The death penalty in the U.S. must come to an end.

This is an opinion and analysis article, and the views expressed by the author or authors are not necessarily those of Scientific American .

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  3. ⚡ Arguments against death penalty essay. Against the Death Penalty

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COMMENTS

  1. Essays About the Death Penalty: Top 5 Examples and Prompts

    In addition, it is inhumane and deprives people of their right to life. 5. The death penalty by Kamala Harris. "Let's be clear: as a former prosecutor, I absolutely and strongly believe there should be serious and swift consequences when one person kills another. I am unequivocal in that belief.

  2. 5 Death Penalty Essays Everyone Should Know

    5 Death Penalty Essays Everyone Should Know. Capital punishment is an ancient practice. It's one that human rights defenders strongly oppose and consider as inhumane and cruel. In 2019, Amnesty International reported the lowest number of executions in about a decade. Most executions occurred in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Egypt.

  3. Top 10 Pro & Con Arguments

    Top 10 Pro & Con Arguments. 1. Legality. The United States is one of 55 countries globally with a legal death penalty, according to Amnesty International. As of Mar. 24, 2021, within the US, 27 states had a legal death penalty (though 3 of those states had a moratorium on the punishment's use).

  4. Arguments for and Against the Death Penalty

    The death penalty is applied unfairly and should not be used. Agree. Disagree. Testimony in Opposition to the Death Penalty: Arbitrariness. Testimony in Favor of the Death Penalty: Arbitrariness. The Death Penalty Information Center is a non-profit organization serving the media and the public with analysis and information about capital ...

  5. Death Penalty: Agree or Disagree. Perspectives on Capital Punishment

    In this "death penalty agree or disagree essay," various arguments for and against capital punishment have been explored. From the perspective of those in agreement, the death penalty serves as a necessary deterrent and a means of retributive justice. Conversely, those who disagree with the death penalty often cite the risk of wrongful ...

  6. The Death Penalty Can Ensure 'Justice Is Being Done'

    As John Duncan was dying of cancer in 2018, he asked family members to promise they would witness the execution on his behalf. On July 17, they did. "Finally," they said in a statement ...

  7. Should the Death Penalty Be Abolished?

    In the July Opinion essay "The Death Penalty Can Ensure 'Justice Is Being Done,'" Jeffrey A. Rosen, then acting deputy attorney general, makes a legal case for capital punishment:

  8. Capital punishment

    Capital punishment - Arguments, Pros/Cons: Capital punishment has long engendered considerable debate about both its morality and its effect on criminal behaviour. Contemporary arguments for and against capital punishment fall under three general headings: moral, utilitarian, and practical. Supporters of the death penalty believe that those who commit murder, because they have taken the life ...

  9. The Death Penalty

    The death penalty violates the most fundamental human right - the right to life. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The death penalty is discriminatory. It is often used against the most vulnerable in society, including the poor, ethnic and religious minorities, and people with mental disabilities.

  10. The Death Penalty: an Argument for Its Advantages

    The deterrent effect of the death penalty is a significant argument in support of its use. The theory of deterrence posits that the threat of punishment will deter individuals from committing crimes. Studies have shown that the death penalty has a deterrent effect on murder rates, and this effect is more pronounced in states with more extensive ...

  11. Death Penalty

    Amnesty International holds that the death penalty breaches human rights, in particular the right to life and the right to live free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Both rights are protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN in 1948. Over time, the international community has ...

  12. Applying the Death Penalty Fairly

    Eighth Amendment:. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. One of the principal objections to imposition of the death penalty, voiced by Justice William O. Douglas in his concurring opinion in Furman, was that it was not being administered fairly—that the capital sentencing laws vesting practically untrammeled discretion ...

  13. ≡Essays on Death Penalty: Top 10 Examples by GradesFixer

    5 pages / 2464 words. The purpose of this essay is to assess the viability of the death penalty as an operative castigation. The death penalty is defined as the legal killing an individual as a sentence. As of 2018, there were 53 countries that still have the death penalty... Death Penalty Society.

  14. Examining the Death Penalty: An Argumentative Perspective [Free Essay

    The death penalty, a highly controversial topic, has ignited passionate debates across societies worldwide. This short argumentative essay seeks to dissect the key arguments for and against the death penalty, exploring its potential deterrence effect, ethical implications, and the complexities of implementing such a grave punishment.

  15. IELTS Writing band 9 sample: death penalty

    Band 9 essay sample (death penalty) Many people believe that death penalty is necessary to keep security system efficient in the society. While there are some negative aspects of capital punishment, I agree with the view that without it we will become more vulnerable to violence. Death penalty can be considered unsuitable punishment for several ...

  16. Against the Death Penalty: A Persuasive Argument for Abolition: [Essay

    According to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death penalty, a 2012 study has shown that 4 billion dollars have been used for the death penalty since 1978, in California alone, and that changing the death sentence to a life imprisonment or another type of sentence could save at least 170 million dollars a year.

  17. Death Penalty Essay

    2. The death penalty is a government-sanctioned process. 3. Death penalties vary depending on the jurisdiction. 4. It includes severe offences like piracy, aircraft hijacking, drug trafficking, and a crime against humanity. 5. 56 countries retain death penalties, and 106 countries have completely abolished it.

  18. 10+ Top Examples of Persuasive Essay About Death Penalty

    6. Get feedback. Lastly, consider asking someone else to read over your essay before you submit it. Feedback from another person can help you see any weaknesses in your argument or areas that need improvement. Summing up, Writing a persuasive essay about the death penalty doesnâ t have to be overwhelming. With these examples and tips, you can ...

  19. Support the Death Penalty: Argumentative Essay

    First, my opinion is in favor of the death penalty. The state I live in now is the state where the death penalty was abolished. The death penalty must, under whatever circumstances, be enforced by the public to clarify the reason for the death of the executor and to carry it out in public proceedings. In the past, there were political deaths ...

  20. Opinion Essay on Death Penalty (Argumentative & Persuasive Papers)

    Argumentative Essay on Against the Death Penalty. ... Individuals who do not agree with the human dignity argument may attempt to argue that the death penalty is an effective consequence because it deters other criminals from committing the crimes. Continuing, it may be argued that the death penalty can show society its moral outrage at ...

  21. Death Penalty Argumentative Essay; Topics, Arguments, Outline

    How to Write a Death Penalty Argumentative Essay Body. The body of an essay should clearly outline your different arguments. Defined by paragraphs, always ensure to sub-divide your viewpoints in the following manner: · 1st paragraph- The most crucial reason for objecting death penalty. · 2nd paragraph- Another vital argument against death ...

  22. The Death Penalty: Arguments and Alternative Solutions

    A. Human rights. One of the strongest arguments against the death penalty is that it violates the right to life as stated in various international human rights conventions. Critics argue that the death penalty is a form of cruel and inhumane punishment, as it involves intentionally taking a person's life.

  23. Death Penalty Essay: Argumentative Essay Sample

    For example, the average cost of this case is almost $2.5 million (Goodman). The money spent on the death penalty could have been used for more important goals, such as saving the lives of other people and helping homeless and disabled children. Also, the death penalty has a negative effect on African American culture.

  24. Death Penalty Essay Introduction

    The death penalty or capital punishment is the execution of a criminal by a government as punishment for a crime. In the United States, the death penalty is the most common form of sentence in murder cases. A death penalty essay argues for or against the death penalty. The essay introduction begins with an attention-grabber, followed by ...

  25. Evidence Does Not Support the Use of the Death Penalty

    The death penalty in the U.S. must come to an end. This is an opinion and analysis article, and the views expressed by the author or authors are not necessarily those of Scientific American.