The death penalty: a deterrent or simply vengeance

Hazel McCallion Senior Public School
Mississauga, Ontario

By Cindy A. (Grade 7)

Ivanov, a Russian inmate arrested in 1988, continues to wait for death. "I agree that there should be some sort of punishment from the state, but not death", he said. "The worst thing is when you're sitting and waiting. But then, for me, it would be better to be killed than to stay in prison forever".

Ivanov's feelings are shared amongst prisoners around the world. But wouldn't the victims' families get a more "powerful" revenge if the killer suffered? If a murderer is executed, they will only feel a minute's pain but, if they go on living, they will live with the guilt in that confined box we call a cell. Life imprisonment without parole is a better, more effective punishment than putting someone to death.

The death penalty should also be abolished because innocent prisoners have been executed. Studies show that, between 1900 and 1985, a total of 23 innocent prisoners were executed. Some of the 2,700 prisoners on the "killer" row today may, presumably, be innocent.

Andrei Chikatilo, the world's worst serial killer, was sentenced to death in October for 52 sex-related murders. Prior to that, Alexander Kravchenko, an innocent man, was executed for two murders that Chikatilo later confessed to.

Debbie Mahaffey, mother of Leslie Mahaffey who was murdered by Paul Bernardo, says, "You go into court, and the bottom line is you will never really know the truth. The only person who knows the truth are the killers."

Is society safer if the government kills a murderer? Capital punishment is supposed to be a deterrent to crime but statistics show that it is not working the way it should. According to American F.B.I. and Bureau of Justice statistics for 1992, the murder rates in states that eliminated the death penalty averaged about 4.9 per 100,000. The states which applied capital punishment in their societies had murder rates that averaged 9.1 per 100,000.

Richard Dieter, the director of The Death Penalty Information Centre says, "It used to be that people wanted executions to be seen as a deterrent (to crime), but something else is operating here. It's vengeance." Dieter states that, since violence is high in states like Texas (which enforce Capital Punishment), the people that support the death penalty can no longer use the excuse that executions are a deterrent. They must start realizing that two wrongs don't make a right.

It is clear from the evidence presented that Capital Punishment is not an answer to our crime problem. It increases murder rates, and kills people who didn't deserve to die. So, is Capital Punishment making the world safer? Not really. On the other hand, it may be making it more dangerous.


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