Is Death Penalty Humane?

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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For my contemporary paper, I have selected a continuously debated subject, the matter of death penalty and whether it is humane. During this paper, we will look at the evolution of death penalty from where it started to present day. We will take and look at what it takes to be put on death row and how the process goes but also what happens to the inmates during that process. We will delve into famous cases in death penalty in both falsely accused innocents and guilty charges.

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There will also be some extensive information on the ways of death penalty and the options that inmates have in choosing their demise. In the end, we will decide for ourselves whether we believe that the Death Penalty is a humane punishment.

Throughout history, death penalty has always been something humanity has used. However, in the earlier ages, it was much crueler and harsher, we also used it as punishment for most crimes. Humanity has evolved over time. Our first methods of death penalty were things such as the breaking wheel, the long-remembered guillotine and more commonly known, the hangings. Currently, our worldly methods consist of gassing, hanging, lethal injection, electric chair and shooting. A lot of controversy has been debated over these subjects.

Many people feel as if hangings and beheading are entirely inhumane just as they are dated, and I would have to agree. Beheading is not an instant death to people’s surprise. Your brain still has oxygen for a few moments after, so imagine the pain someone could feel in those brief moments before death. Hanging can go wrong in so many ways, there have been reports on people surviving hangings for up to fifteen minutes and longer, struggling against their strangling. When it comes to a firing squad death, people tend to say it’s far too violent and could also prolong the death if not shot properly, which is true. Our method of electric chair has been around since the 1890’s and was thought to be a humane replacement for the hangings. We still use this method in some states, but most have drifted towards the method of lethal injection as a more humane alternative once again. There have been many concerns about this process however, several executions were botched and killed inmates in a cruel fashion.

There is a lot of conflict over the idea of what it takes to be put on death row. Some of the crimes that can be punished with death penalty are considered capital offenses. These offenses are espionage, murder and treason. Many debate that the only reason people are put onto death row is at the fault of their lawyers and our court systems, which in my personal opinion, is quite true. When looking at two cases that mirror each other, a lawyer and judge can make a world’s worth of difference. Judges are all different in how they enforce justice, lawyers aren’t always great, nor do they always care about their clientele.

As of recently, society has become more and more concerned over the idea of wrongful execution, or more aptly put, a miscarriage of justice. This is the execution of an innocent individual, something that has come to attention to the public after information came out about a number of thirty-nine cases that were carried out despite severe doubt of guilt or with evidence of innocence. In the year of 1989, Carlos Deluna was wrongfully accused of murder, a mistaken eyewitness and his own criminal history was all it took to put him through capital punishment. The real culprit, Carlos Hernandez, had reportedly been bragging about the murder and in 1999 was arrested for attacking a neighbor with his knife. In the case of Jesse Tafero, he displayed evidence against wrongful execution as well as inhumane execution. In 1992, he was executed via electrocution for the murder of two Highway Patrol officers in Florida, however his execution did not go smoothly. It was said that his chair malfunctioned three different times, causing his head to catch fire. A recreation of the crime said there had to be a third person to commit the murders. Our final case is on Johnny Garrett, a man executed for the crime of murdering and raping a nun in 1992. In 2004, DNA testing on cold cases led to the actual culprit being Leoncio Rueda who had also murdered and raped another elderly victim.

Now, let’s look at what it’s like to be on death row rather than what it’s like to be punished by it. Most people are unaware of how long capital punishment takes to deliver. In reality, our death row inmates average a fifteen year wait for their demise, however, some have been there for over forty years as well. It’s common for our death row inmates to die of illness and natural causes before their execution, making the idea of the punishment quite worthless. They are only granted an hour out of their cells a day, and unless they’re showering, or in the yard, they are always wearing their cuffs outside of their cells. On the topic of cells, they’re usually only eight by ten feet in size and in that tiny space, a bed, toilet and sink are squeezed in, sometimes a trunk and a desk with a chair as well. It is often believed and studied to say that inmates’ mental health will deteriorate within their stay, something called Death Row Syndrome has been discovered. Inmates will become ill both physically and mentally, they show signs of agitation and violent behaviors as well as signs of psychosis. It is thought that the lack of personal time and social interaction is to blame for this. Some places count their inmates twice an hour, often waking the prisoners in the process, causing sleep deprivation.

When looking at those who support death penalty, the leading supporting reason is vengeance. People believe capital punishment is their justice for their loved ones. They believe in the eye for an eye concept. There has also been the argument that the death penalty is a deterrent to capital crime. There are also many misconceptions about the cost of putting someone to death, we’ve already covered the fact it is more expensive to put someone to death.

Now, for the finale of this paper, I’ve chosen my side of the argument, if it wasn’t obvious, I’m not a supporter for capital punishment. For the end, I’m going to put down the previous paragraph’s statements. Capital punishment is not sufficient for justice, it is not eye for an eye, it is only an untimely end. To put an end to someone’s life does not put them through what your loved one suffered through, it is not a scratch on the surface of their pain nor yours. In matters of a deterrent, there has been absolutely no evidence that it serves as a deterrent. Studies have shown no drop in crime rates since death penalty nor rise in the states that have abolished the use of capital punishment.

In the end, I believe death penalty is a useless concept that costs us more than we can afford in both our wallets and in our humanity. We need to focus our attention on rehabilitating rather than playing death.

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Is Death Penalty Humane?. (2019, Jan 06). Retrieved from