There really isn’t a decent argument for the death penalty that is not rooted in justice or vengeance.
Very little to no deterrence effect (general deterrence, not specific deterrence). A single study years ago claimed that for every execution, 7 lives were saved. Conservatives ran with it. We have since recognized the methodological issues with that study and current research in the field consistently finds no deterrence effect. While a few studies have found a very small deterrence effect, they are vastly outweighed by the amount of studies that have not found an effect. Since we test null hypotheses, many researchers are limited in how they phrase their findings, and can only state that they failed to find a relationship, not that there isn’t a relationship. But when a vast majority of the evidence failed to find a relationship and only a tiny fraction have found a small, short-term relationship, we can pretty much conclude that there is not a relationship between deterrence and the death penalty. In fact, some studies show a brutalization effect, thus increasing violence in the area.
Cost. The cost of executing an individual is significantly more than the cost of incarcerating an individual. I recently had a quick conversation with scienceofeds about this. This seems to be the only argument that remotely influences individuals that are in favor of the death penalty to consider opposing it.
Human error. I’ve seen estimates range from 1-10% of offenders on death row that are innocent. At the very least, while Rick Perry was boasting about executing roughly 250 people during his tenure (the number is higher now, that was a few years ago), they executed 2-3 innocent people as well. If you are really interested in looking at innocence and the death penalty, it would be fruitful to look at offenders that would have been eligible for the death penalty in states that do not have the death penalty and look at overturned convictions.
Racial bias: It is not a secret that black men are more likely to receive the death penalty compared to white men, especially when a black man kills a white person or a cop. There is also gender bias: men of all races are more likely to receive the death penalty compared to women, but we don’t ever talk about that, because of “power” and all. In some really fascinating articles, researchers have even linked executions to lynchings, conservative rhetoric during campaign years, and black migration to the north after emancipation (I can get links if anyone is interested).
So what are the arguments for the death penalty that are rooted in empirical evidence? There aren’t any. The only arguments left are rooted in justice, vengeance, and fear. The offenders that receive the death penalty have committed horrendous and gruesome acts, and if we get “lenient” on them, we are perpetuating violence and signaling that we are not tough on crime. I mean really, what’s next, early release for these people? (that was sarcasm). Additionally, have you ever seen a family that has suffered one of these gruesome attacks and not felt some empathy when they talk about these atrocities perpetuated against their family? People see victims and relate to them: if it happens to them, it could happen to me, and if it happened to me I would want them taken off of this earth. Let’s not forget the fear factor too, especially racialized fear. When we see images of offenders that are going to be put to death, they are generally minorities. Even if they are not all minorities, the minorities are the ones that stand out when they are presented (availability heuristic anyone?). We still view minorities, especially, young black men, as violent, dangerous, and not amenable to rehabilitation. Not getting “tough on crime” are code words for “not being tough on minorities.”
Ultimately, we live in a society that wants an eye for an eye. Durkheim talked about this in a few pieces as executions used to take place in the town square with everyone in attendance to watch and feel solidarity. They are offenders and we are non-offenders. Offenders are easy targets to dehumanize. Since they have committed a violation of our codified norms, people believe they deserve to be punished and deserve the severity of punishment prescribed by our laws (just world hypothesis). Once they are dehumanized, it is easier for people to allow the disgusting treatment of offenders that has taken place for decades, including these horrendous “botched” executions that have taken place. People think they are the worst of the worst, and they deserve no sympathy from anyone.
EDIT: Also, Steven Pinker talks about how practice and moral beliefs can operate at different speeds. He discusses how the death penalty used to be given to relatively minor offenses (e.g., theft) and that would be ridiculous today.
I’m with ya, and hopefully the tone of this response accurately displays my position. The death penalty argument is solely rooted in vengeance, and vengeance is fueled by racial and gendered terms. Things seem to be slowly changing, and hopefully these recent tragedies can shed light on the archaic practice. We would be wise to look into the restorative justice initiatives that have taken place in other countries.
Wow, that was a little long-winded, sorry!
no but imagine the rawness of slytherin feminists
PSA: Big corporations putting feel good feminist messages in their advertisements wont result in women’s liberation as much as it will result in goading liberal minded folks to buy more shampoo or whatever. There’s no point in fawning over these commercials.
I love you. Looking at your face makes my heart race. Isn't that what love is? And yet you blab about maids and whatnot...
Don’t be mad at vegans.
Be mad at the society that told you lie after lie.
Be mad at the ads that ease your conscience in order to sell you stuff.
Be mad at the corporations that profit from your ignorance and nonhumans' exploitation.
Be mad at a system that objectifies and kills sentient beings on a daily basis.
How on earth did this post get over 2,000 notes and yet attract so few whiners?
yeah seriously tell us how wizardry’s done in the new world tell me how the wizards from france and spain and britain stamped out the brujos and the medicine men and set up their own schools tell me what the fuck the british raj did to fucking india because the patel twins are going to school in scotland and what are they told about their history, tell me about native american kids learning to say wingardium leviosa with hate in their hearts and tell me about wizarding rabbis bickering about whether you can use potions on the sabbath tell me about the slaves on their ships with their wands broken, mouthing curses in the dark tell me about the runaways that made it with garter snakes wrapped around their wrists that told them when they tasted dogs in the distance, tell me about the underground railroad and abolitionists with unbreakable vows and home-spun invisibility cloaks and disilusionments, using obliviate, using imperio, knowing that they served a higher justice, tell me about what happened to black wizards in the fifties, about what gates they were storming in the sixties tell me about queer wizards taking love potions every morning in their coffee to stay married to their husbands and their wives because what else could they do?
the world only begins and ends with straight white christians if you don’t bother looking any farther than that and too many people don’t and i am tired, tired, tired