Give me humanity, or give me death

By Aoife Branco

Let me first start by saying that I am 100 percent a humanitarian. I would say that my perspective on the world is that of a concerned optimist. By this I mean, I can recognize the evil in the world and the corrupt nature of much of it, but I still genuinely view most people as good or wanting to do the right thing.

This is perhaps why the question of the death penalty is such a hard subject to tackle. For most people, there is no grey area. Either they are wholeheartedly for or wholeheartedly against it. I have never really seen myself definitively on either side of that issue, but rather somewhere in the middle.

It can be argued that, at the end of the day, there is no way to stay on the fence about an issue of this nature, because the outcome doesn’t really leave many options to play around with. None the less, here I am.

So, as I said, I believe in the goodness of people and their ability to do the right thing. Prison, war, and human suffering are examples of my understanding that this is often not the case.

Enter the justice system, delving out punishments and determining the truth amidst a sea of lies and deception.

Right away, I am sympathetic to the death penalty simply because of how horrific the crimes are that receive this sentence. Raping and brutally murdering another human being in cold blood can realistically make most people support the death penalty. And if that isn’t enough, the costs to run a prison for one day, just one single day, are astronomical! And taxpayers are responsible for it! Criminals living in these prisons eat, sleep, and have medical care provided to them, all on the back of those people who actually follow the law.

Yes, it is important to provide a sense of humanity and decency for these people while in prison, but it is just so much money, and getting people out of our prisons for death-penalty-worthy crimes would not necessarily be a bad thing.

But here’s the thing, though. In my eyes, the death penalty is just such an easy way out. I don’t know, I feel like having to rot in prison behind bars for the rest of your life, living with your guilt, is a tougher pill to swallow. Of course, I understand that my view on this assumes a lot and requires the convict to have some semblance of a conscience. But is it wrong to make that assumption? At their very core, no matter how twisted and morphed their demons have made them, all people—every single human being on this planet—are just that, human beings.

And furthermore, what gives any of us the right to have dominion over the life of someone else? Does killing a convict make us any better than the person we are putting to death? And what about how often the justice system gets it wrong? Can we live with ourselves after wrongfully convicting and then killing an innocent human?

I genuinely don’t know the answer to those questions, but I want to believe that in the end, people can find their humanity, on all sides of the equation.