[Letters] Death penalty a mistake

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[Letters] Death penalty a mistake

If someone killed one of your family members, how would you feel about that? Would you take revenge on the criminal, or forgive them for their wrongdoing? And if you take revenge, does the murderer deserve to die, just like his victim?

Some people justify capital punishment with this logic. But others say that those who favor the death penalty should be more rational and not get carried away by their emotions.

The death penalty has been a controversial issue for a long time, because of its many contentious points such as human rights or the accuracy of crime rates. Now that it is the 21st century, many countries have repealed the death penalty. I also strongly stand against it, for the following reasons.

First of all, some people insist that the crime rate can be decreased by severely punishing criminals, but it is hard to tell that capital punishment reduces the crime rate. For example, although France abolished capital punishment in 1976, the crime rate, on the contrary, dropped over the following two decades.

The Canadian government said, “Canadian research on the deterrent effect of punishment has reached the same conclusion as the overwhelming majority of US studies: The death penalty has no special value as a deterrent when compared to other punishments.”

Secondly, the death penalty can be administered wrongly because of structural issues, such as social class and ethnicity. These mistakes can lead to irrevocable disasters for judges, as well as the victim’s family. In 2001, the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern Law School in the U.S. analyzed the cases of 86 people sentenced to death. They found a number of reasons why innocent people are wrongly convicted in capital cases. In one case, Darryl Hunt was wrongly convicted of murder in the 1980s, because prosecutors pursued the death penalty during his first trial. After 19 years in prison, he was found to be innocent.

Lastly, capital punishment goes against our basic human rights. No one can decide whether a person should remain alive or not, because everyone has a right to live or die by their own choice, not by others’.

It is not humane for someone to curtail a person’s chance to repent for their wrongdoings. Many prison guards say some criminals who do not feel guilt during their imprisonment shed tears and regret at their final moment. Should they be inflicted with a heavy penalty only because they already committed a felony, no matter if they repent? If we follow the “eye for an eye” theory, how are humans different from other creatures?

There are, of course, counterarguments for the death penalty. Some opinions say capital punishment can keep criminals out of society, or that it is a waste of money to manage them in prison.

Even so, the death penalty issue demands more consideration, because it is a matter of a human life. Capital punishment must be abolished if it leads to the death of only one person by any mistakes which can happen during the process of judgment. We cannot overlook the problems of such an irreversible punishment.

Life is not a computer game, in that if we reset the game, we can be reborn. Thus, capital punishment should be repealed not for reasons of criminal deterrence or retribution, but so that we may respect each other’s humanity.

Sim Miae,

Student, Dongguk University, Seoul
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