Opposing Viewpoints: The Death Penalty: unethical

May 6 in Cleveland, Ohio three women were rescued from captivity in a house belonging to a Cleveland resident named Ariel Castro. He allegedly abducted, held captive, beat and repeatedly raped these women over a decade. They were held in captivity for 11, 10 and nine years. Two of them were under 18 years old at the time of their kidnapping. Castro also allegedly induced miscarriages in at least one victim by beating and starving her until she miscarried.

Ohio Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said he may seek the death penalty for Castro’s crimes. Specifically, McGinty intends to charge Castro with aggravated murder related to the pregnancies he forcibly terminated.

Admittedly, I have absolutely no issue confessing that I have no qualms about thinking that perpetrators of sexual violence and relentless cruelty like those actions Ariel Castro is charged with deserve to die, even deserve to be killed. Despite this, I do not support the death penalty.

Castro is facing immense amounts of prison time for the alleged kidnapping, rape and brutalization of three women. He is also facing charges for kidnapping a child that was born six years ago to one of the women in his captivity, as well as aggravated murder for the violence that led to the induced miscarried pregnancies of one of the women. Those aggravated murder charges are what might put him on death row. In the state of Ohio, forced abortion is murder, and extravagant murder is grounds for a trial that may resolve with capital punishment.

Despite the fact that I believe he deserves to die for the murder charges and the many other terribly disgusting things he did, I will not support an institution that is in need of tremendous reform before it could ever be effective.

Obviously, murder is a basic violation of human rights, which is why murderers are punished for their actions. Murder is not an appropriate punishment for murder, though. I have a serious moral issue with the legal assassination of any person. And, apart from even that, the death penalty system is under-regulated and unorganized.

Sentences are almost arbitrarily handed out, lacking consistency, particularly considering race. A disproportionate amount of non-white prisoners are executed, while white prisoners spend their entire lives just waiting on death row. Between 1971 and 2012, there were 142 inmates exonerated while on death row according to the Death Penalty Information Center. 18 of those prisoners were proven innocent by DNA testing, after collectively serving 202 years on death row.

The criminal justice system is controlled by emotional human judges, traumatized witnesses and evidence that is occasionally questionable. The criminal justice system is bound to make mistakes, but there is not really room for that when it is someone’s life on the line.

In my opinion, the death penalty only exists to give psychological peace to the victims of the crime, and to the greater public, particularly if they are religious. In 2009, a study was published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology stating that almost 90 percent of the leading criminologists in the U.S. agree that the death penalty is not even an effective deterrent to criminals.

Maybe, if the whole idea and policy behind the death penalty was rethought and reformed, I could get behind it — maybe. But, more effectively, I think it would just be really nice if we could reform laws to make criminal management more straightforward and exact, and reasonable. We could reform the entire prison system, and all the tons of problems with that, the death penalty included.

In Ohio, Castro’s alleged actions earn him legal eligibility for the death penalty. And, I certainly cannot argue that this man deserves to live, because I simply do not think that is really true. But, I refuse to respect a broken system.

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