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Do Now #46: Is the Death Penalty an Appropriate Form of Punishment?

| October 27, 2012 | 12 Comments
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Do Now

Should prisoners convicted of the most violent crimes receive the death penalty? Tell us why or why not? Link to a convincing argument or related article online, perhaps.


Introduction

For the first time in nearly 35 years, California voters will decide on the fate of the state’s death penalty law. Proposition 34, on this November’s ballot, proposes a full repeal of the law. If passed, the measure would convert the sentences of all current death row inmates to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Not surprisingly, Prop 34 is among the most emotionally-charged issues on this year’s ballot, marking yet another chapter in California’s ongoing, soul-searching debate on justice and punishment. Opponents of the death penalty (those in favor of Prop 34) contend that executing people is never justifiable, even criminals that have committed the most serious crimes. They also argue that the death penalty is incredibly inefficient and financially wasteful, due to the number of legal appeals, and the cost of keeping prisoners on death row for years on end. Repealing the death penalty would save the state an estimated $100 million a year, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

But supporters of the death penalty – those in opposition to Prop 34 – argue that criminals convicted of the most violent crimes deserve to be put to death. The death penalty deters future crime, many argue, and for the families and friends of victims, it is the only way that justice is truly served.

Resource

KQED’s The Lowdown explainer To Kill or not to Kill? California’s Death Penalty Debacle – Oct. 23, 2012
California has had a really tough time making up its mind about the death penalty. In 1872, the state authorized capital punishment in its penal code (until then, executions were generally conducted by county sheriffs). 23 years later, a guy named Jose Gabriel, convicted of murdering an elderly couple, was hung inside San Quentin Prison. That marked California’s first official execution at the hands of the state.


To respond to the Do Now, you can comment below or tweet your response. Be sure to begin your tweet with@KQEDedspace and end it with #KQEDDoNow

For more info on how to use Twitter, click here.

We encourage students to tweet their personal opinions as well as support their ideas with links to interesting/credible articles online (adding a nice research component) or retweet other people’s ideas that they agree/disagree/find amusing. We also value student-produced media linked to their tweets like memes or more extensive blog posts to represent their ideas. Of course, do as you can…and any contribution is most welcomed.


More Resources

California Report segment Proposition 34: Death Penalty Debate Heads to Voters for Possible Resolution – Oct. 10, 2012
More than 725 people are sitting on California’s death row. If Proposition 34 passes next month, their sentences will all be converted to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The measure is the latest chapter in a meandering legal and political dispute over capital punishment.

NPR segment In Calif., A Death Penalty Proponent Changes Course – Oct. 25, 2012
Ron Briggs, a member of the Board of Supervisors in El Dorado County, Calif., and his father helped expand the state’s death penalty in 1978. Now Briggs wants the death penalty repealed and replaced with life without parole. Renee Montagne speaks with Briggs about his shift from death penalty supporter to death penalty opponent.

 

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About the Author ()

Matthew Green runs KQED’s News Education Project, a new online resource for educators and the general public to help explain the news. The project lives at kqed.org/lowdown.
  • http://cadeathpenalty.webs.com/ Chris Bernstien

    Prop. 34 will kill innocent people:

    Those on death row murdered at least 1,279 people, including 230 children & 43 police officers. 211 were raped, 319 robbed, 66 killed by execution, & 47 tortured. 11 murdered other inmates.

    A jury of 12 people & a judge confirmed for each inmate that their crimes were so atrocious and they were so dangerous that they not only did not deserve to live, but they were so dangerous that the only safe recourse was the death penalty. Recognizing how dangerous these killers are, the prison houses them 1 person to a cell and does not provide them with work, leaving them locked in their cells most of the day.

    Prop. 34 wants to ignore all of this and save $ by placing these killers in less-restrictive prisons where they share cells. They also want to provide them opportunities for work, where they have more freedom, access to other inmates and guards, & more chances to make weapons.

    Prop. 34 also destroys any incentive for the 34,000 inmates already serving life without parole to kill again. There would be no death penalty. They are already serving a life sentence, so why not get a name by killing another inmate or a guard?

    Prop. 34 also takes away the money for inmates to challenge their convictions. If innocent, they will spend the rest of their life in jail, celled with vicious killers. Prop. 34 will cause more deaths of innocent people– guards and people wrongfully convicted but no longer able to fight it in court.

    And they refer to Prop. 34 as the SAFE Act!

  • http://cadeathpenalty.webs.com/ Chris Bernstien

    Prop. 34 will kill innocent people:

    Those on death row murdered at least 1,279 people, including 230 children & 43 police officers. 211 were raped, 319 robbed, 66 killed by execution, & 47 tortured. 11 murdered other inmates.

    A jury of 12 people & a judge confirmed for each inmate that their crimes were so atrocious and they were so dangerous that they not only did not deserve to live, but they were so dangerous that the only safe recourse was the death penalty. Recognizing how dangerous these killers are, the prison houses them 1 person to a cell and does not provide them with work, leaving them locked in their cells most of the day.

    Prop. 34 wants to ignore all of this and save $ by placing these killers in less-restrictive prisons where they share cells. They also want to provide them opportunities for work, where they have more freedom, access to other inmates and guards, & more chances to make weapons.

    Prop. 34 also destroys any incentive for the 34,000 inmates already serving life without parole to kill again. There would be no death penalty. They are already serving a life sentence, so why not get a name by killing another inmate or a guard?

    Prop. 34 also takes away the money for inmates to challenge their convictions. If innocent, they will spend the rest of their life in jail, celled with vicious killers. Prop. 34 will cause more deaths of innocent people– guards and people wrongfully convicted but no longer able to fight it in court.

    And they refer to Prop. 34 as the SAFE Act!

  • http://cadeathpenalty.webs.com/ Chris Bernstien

    Former California Department of Finance Director Michael Genest, an expert on state finances and how ballot initiatives affect the state budget, reviewed Prop 34 and said that its claims of budget savings are “grossly exaggerated.”

    There is no independent, third-party study that exists which backs up any claim that eliminating the death penalty in California will save money. The “study” put forth by the Yes on Prop 34 campaign was conducted by individuals whose opposition to the death penalty is well-known. In other words, they are trying to push their own agenda.

    The non-partisan California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) has studied Prop 34 and while they estimate possible savings under Prop 34, they acknowledge substantial uncertainties in their estimates and admit they could be off by “tens of millions of dollars.”

    Unless murders stop, there will always be murder investigations and trials costs, whether or not there is a death penalty, and killers will continue to appeal their convictions. Prop 34 proponents never account for these costs, or the increased cost to provide housing and healthcare for death row inmates in any of their claims.

  • http://cadeathpenalty.webs.com/ Chris Bernstien

    Former California Department of Finance Director Michael Genest, an expert on state finances and how ballot initiatives affect the state budget, reviewed Prop 34 and said that its claims of budget savings are “grossly exaggerated.”

    There is no independent, third-party study that exists which backs up any claim that eliminating the death penalty in California will save money. The “study” put forth by the Yes on Prop 34 campaign was conducted by individuals whose opposition to the death penalty is well-known. In other words, they are trying to push their own agenda.

    The non-partisan California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) has studied Prop 34 and while they estimate possible savings under Prop 34, they acknowledge substantial uncertainties in their estimates and admit they could be off by “tens of millions of dollars.”

    Unless murders stop, there will always be murder investigations and trials costs, whether or not there is a death penalty, and killers will continue to appeal their convictions. Prop 34 proponents never account for these costs, or the increased cost to provide housing and healthcare for death row inmates in any of their claims.

  • http://cadeathpenalty.webs.com/ Chris Bernstien

    There is confusion about the costs. It costs about $47,421/year per inmate, plus medical costs. If the average prisoner is aged 30 and lives until 75, he has 45 years of state support. There are 729 inmates at this time. Total cost: $1,541,835,000.

    This does not include medical costs, which are even greater when you consider the additional costs as inmates age. In 2001 it was reported that “Current estimates are that it will cost $1.5 million to incarcerate an elderly prisoner for the minimum 25 years, in part due to the fact that elderly inmates will require more expenditures for health care and other needs than a younger prisoner.” That’s another $1,093,500,000 as of 2001, and costs have only increased drastically and will continue to do so.

    In California, inmates age 55 or older, who are 7 percent of the prison population, consume 38 percent of prison medical beds.”

    This treatment includes costs for communicable and chronic Diseases, mental illnesses, substance abuse, prescription drugs. Cost skyrocket when there are needs for surgeries, MRI scans, sex changes(?), etc. In fact, the prison system health costs are becoming overwhelming. 3-strikes sentences are costing an additional $19.2 billion. That’s one of the arguments to get rid of life sentences. Bottom line, Prop. 34 will cost a heck of a lot more than it would ever allegedly save!

  • http://cadeathpenalty.webs.com/ Chris Bernstien

    There is confusion about the costs. It costs about $47,421/year per inmate, plus medical costs. If the average prisoner is aged 30 and lives until 75, he has 45 years of state support. There are 729 inmates at this time. Total cost: $1,541,835,000.

    This does not include medical costs, which are even greater when you consider the additional costs as inmates age. In 2001 it was reported that “Current estimates are that it will cost $1.5 million to incarcerate an elderly prisoner for the minimum 25 years, in part due to the fact that elderly inmates will require more expenditures for health care and other needs than a younger prisoner.” That’s another $1,093,500,000 as of 2001, and costs have only increased drastically and will continue to do so.

    In California, inmates age 55 or older, who are 7 percent of the prison population, consume 38 percent of prison medical beds.”

    This treatment includes costs for communicable and chronic Diseases, mental illnesses, substance abuse, prescription drugs. Cost skyrocket when there are needs for surgeries, MRI scans, sex changes(?), etc. In fact, the prison system health costs are becoming overwhelming. 3-strikes sentences are costing an additional $19.2 billion. That’s one of the arguments to get rid of life sentences. Bottom line, Prop. 34 will cost a heck of a lot more than it would ever allegedly save!

  • Cameron Vafai

    I don’t think the death penalty is a good punishment.I think it costs too much and it doesn’t teach criminals anything.Life in prison could teach criminals how to become better people.I think that justice is not revenge.Staying in prison is harder than getting killed one time.

  • Cameron Vafai

    I don’t think the death penalty is a good punishment.I think it costs too much and it doesn’t teach criminals anything.Life in prison could teach criminals how to become better people.I think that justice is not revenge.Staying in prison is harder than getting killed one time.

  • amy lam

    why baned death roll u show no mercy to who u kill so why do u show mercy to though how kill,murder,rape.why do u want them to live so much they kill the ones u love.

  • amy lam

    why baned death roll u show no mercy to who u kill so why do u show mercy to though how kill,murder,rape.why do u want them to live so much they kill the ones u love.

  • http://slhs.net Gregory Taylor 7th Period

    I feel that criminals convicted of even the most violent crimes should not recieve the dealth penalty. No matter how severe ther crime may be, it is still a human life that is being taken away. No matter what someone has done to someonelse, there life is still important, and still has meaning. In stead of executing the person, it would be better to have an laternative punishment for the severity of their crime. Even though they may have been convicted, they still have somehting worth living for, their friends, families, and for themsleves because they are entitled to live and have a life, just as citizens who have never commited a crime in their lives are also entied to life as well as property and the pursuit of happiness. It says in the constitution, as American citizens w are all entitled to life. By employing the death penalty we take away the right to that person’s life, which goes against the constitution.Also, just because they are convicted of a dangerous felony, it does not mean that thry will never reform. If a person commits a dangerous act or crime, they should be given the chance to make up for it, and redeem themselves. Just becaue they commit the rime once, it does not mean they will commti it again, even if they have commited something really horrible. This is also significant because some dangerous felons may want to reform instead of recieving the death penalty, but are not given the chance. Instead of aiding felons in turining their lives around, majority of society will just give up on felons withuot a second thought. On the contrary, as far as society knows, many floens may feel remorse over what they have done, and wish to turn their lives around i order to make the most out of life. Another reason I am against the death penalty is because it will be too late to make any changes once the convicthas been executed. For example, if a felon is convicted for murder of the first degree, and kills over 1000,000,000 people, the sentimentality of people in society would urge them to push for the convict to receive the death penalty. Particulary friends and family memebers of the victims would feel very strongly about whether the convict recieves the death penalty or not. Howver, it is found that the convict who recieves the death penaty was not the actual person who commtied the murder, and is not in any way linked to the murder, then innocent person has been to die, and their life can not be brought back. In conclusion, I am against the death penalty because it takes awat the life of a peron who does not truly deserve to die. In reality no one really deserves to die. However, because of human sentimentality, many people want ot put away the many people who have been courrputed and have turned towards a life of crime. People are not born into mosters, and never really become monsters as they are climed to be in the media, televison, and radio reports. Despite the many henious acts they may have commit, felons are still human beings, they still eat food, breahte air, and still participate in many orther activites that every day people in society enjoy. Therfore human beings need to be more rational when it comes down to felons because they do not know the impact of sending an inmate to death row can be. For example, if a convict is convicted, and recieves the death penalty, it can be implied that the many people they are accosicated with, friends, family, etc will be horrified at what is happening to their loved one, espeically if they are really close to each other. The bulid up of hteir emotions may cause them to do something reckless, such as seeking revenge on the ones who put their loved one(s) to death, which will cause a domino effect. The ones seeking revenge will be convicted of first degree murder and will recieve the death penalty, and the cycle will continue as long the death penalty is still a fuction in our world. And that is why I am against the death penalty and feel that our contury would be better off with an alternative way of dealing with felons and convicts who have committed horrible crimes

  • http://slhs.net Gregory Taylor 7th Period

    I feel that criminals convicted of even the most violent crimes should not recieve the dealth penalty. No matter how severe ther crime may be, it is still a human life that is being taken away. No matter what someone has done to someonelse, there life is still important, and still has meaning. In stead of executing the person, it would be better to have an laternative punishment for the severity of their crime. Even though they may have been convicted, they still have somehting worth living for, their friends, families, and for themsleves because they are entitled to live and have a life, just as citizens who have never commited a crime in their lives are also entied to life as well as property and the pursuit of happiness. It says in the constitution, as American citizens w are all entitled to life. By employing the death penalty we take away the right to that person’s life, which goes against the constitution.Also, just because they are convicted of a dangerous felony, it does not mean that thry will never reform. If a person commits a dangerous act or crime, they should be given the chance to make up for it, and redeem themselves. Just becaue they commit the rime once, it does not mean they will commti it again, even if they have commited something really horrible. This is also significant because some dangerous felons may want to reform instead of recieving the death penalty, but are not given the chance. Instead of aiding felons in turining their lives around, majority of society will just give up on felons withuot a second thought. On the contrary, as far as society knows, many floens may feel remorse over what they have done, and wish to turn their lives around i order to make the most out of life. Another reason I am against the death penalty is because it will be too late to make any changes once the convicthas been executed. For example, if a felon is convicted for murder of the first degree, and kills over 1000,000,000 people, the sentimentality of people in society would urge them to push for the convict to receive the death penalty. Particulary friends and family memebers of the victims would feel very strongly about whether the convict recieves the death penalty or not. Howver, it is found that the convict who recieves the death penaty was not the actual person who commtied the murder, and is not in any way linked to the murder, then innocent person has been to die, and their life can not be brought back. In conclusion, I am against the death penalty because it takes awat the life of a peron who does not truly deserve to die. In reality no one really deserves to die. However, because of human sentimentality, many people want ot put away the many people who have been courrputed and have turned towards a life of crime. People are not born into mosters, and never really become monsters as they are climed to be in the media, televison, and radio reports. Despite the many henious acts they may have commit, felons are still human beings, they still eat food, breahte air, and still participate in many orther activites that every day people in society enjoy. Therfore human beings need to be more rational when it comes down to felons because they do not know the impact of sending an inmate to death row can be. For example, if a convict is convicted, and recieves the death penalty, it can be implied that the many people they are accosicated with, friends, family, etc will be horrified at what is happening to their loved one, espeically if they are really close to each other. The bulid up of hteir emotions may cause them to do something reckless, such as seeking revenge on the ones who put their loved one(s) to death, which will cause a domino effect. The ones seeking revenge will be convicted of first degree murder and will recieve the death penalty, and the cycle will continue as long the death penalty is still a fuction in our world. And that is why I am against the death penalty and feel that our contury would be better off with an alternative way of dealing with felons and convicts who have committed horrible crimes