Resolved: The United States should Discontinue the Use of Capital Punishment
Debate Rounds (5)
First round is acceptance only. I will be arguing for the discontinuation of capital punishment in the United States and my opponent will be arguing for the continuation of aforesaid punishment. Burden of Proof is on Pro.
Good luck and happy debating!
I would first of all like to thank Con for accepting the debate.
Contrary to what you might expect, the death penalty costs much more than its alternative, life imprisonment without possibility of release or parole. A 2015 Seattle University study showed that Washington aggravated first-degree murder cases in which the death penalty was sought cost an average of $1 million more than cases in which it was not.  A California study showed that the death penalty has cost the state $4 billion over the past 20 years.  Across the nation, the death penalty has cost us $1.6 billion in the time period between 1982 and 1997.  In federal trials, death penalty cases cost 8 times more to defend than similar cases in which the death penalty is not sought. 
This is not only a large economic and budgetary strain on communities. It also diverts money from programs that are more effective in terms of crime prevention, such as early childhood education, high school dropout prevention, mental health services, and drug and alcohol treatment services. We are doing our communities a disservice by taking money that could be used to create healthier societies and using it instead to execute people. 
Proponents of the death penalty often talk about the death penalty as a deterrent, saying murder rates would skyrocket if capital punishment were to be abolished. This is not accurate. In fact, murder rates in death penalty states have been consistently higher than those in non-death penalty states.  This is not necessarily to suggest that the death penalty causes crime, but rather that it has absolutely no effect on crime rates. In addition, 87% of expert criminologists agree that the abolition of the death penalty would not change murder rates in any significant manner. 
3. Psychological Damage
Another factor we must consider when discussing the continuation of capital punishment is the significant harm it inflicts on prison workers. According to Equal Justice USA, "Corrections officials, haunted by the experience of putting people to death, have committed suicide, turned to alcohol, or suffered mental and physical health problems."  One prison warden, Ron McAndrew, would wake up each night to see vivid hallucinations of executed inmates sitting at the foot of his bed, and reports of PTSD in executioners and other workers are widespread. McAndrew speaks out against the death penalty: " I saw staff traumatized by the duties they were asked to perform. Officers who had never even met the condemned fought tears, cowering in corners so as not to be seen. Some of my colleagues turned to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of knowing that a man had died by their hands."  In other words, for every person we kill, we are ruining many innocent lives along with it. Is that justice?
As with any punishment, there are bound to be circumstances in which, for a variety of reasons, the justice system gets it wrong. The same goes for capital punishment. There have been many cases in which people have been exonerated after spending years of their lives on death row, and some in which innocent people have been convicted.  The death penalty, however, is set apart from other punishments because it cannot be reversed once carried out. If someone is wrongfully imprisoned, you can release them, give them a compensation for their time, and send them on their way. The death penalty, obviously, is irreversible, and as long as there is any possibility of mistakenly killing an innocent person, the death penalty should not be continued.
Finally, there is the simple issue of government hypocrisy. A classic question that reveals this is, "Why do we kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong?" It's simply not an ethical thing to do in a modern society such as this.
Eagerly awaiting my opponent's responses!
8. [Full Article] http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org...;
Before I start rebutting Con's points, I would like to point out that one of the main mistakes Pro makes is that the death penalty is only trying to deter people from committing crimes, because the state could kill them for it. This is not true. Yes, it is one of the reasons, but the others are retribution, incapacitation, and rehabilitation.
According to Con's statistics, (which I am not arguing) the cost of the death penalty is not cost effective. I have to concede to this point. There is really no way of getting around it.
As I stated earlier, deterring potential violent criminals from committing crimes is not the only purpose of the death penalty. I'm aware that it does not provide rehabilitation, but in the cases of serial killers, serial rapists, and terrorists, rehabilitation is a dangerous option for those trying to rehabilitate them, especially if the criminal is insane. (schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder, etc) basically, rehabilitation in the case of the kinds of criminals that get put on death row is a dangerous thing that could lead to more violence then one execution. That being said, the death penalty does very well at
the last two, Retribution and incapacitation. In some of the cases on death row, the offender killed or did incredible damage to more then one person, such as serial killers or terrorists, to let them live would be unjust after all the pain and death they caused. Killing them is the only just way to punish their actions. The worst deeds imaginable should be punished by the worst punishment imaginable. It also succeeds very well at incapacitation, for obvious reasons. The only debate on that point is wether or not it is better at it then incarceration. I say it is, because however uncommon, criminals do escape from prison, such as the recent-ish case of El Chapo. With the death penalty, that doesn't happen.
According to Michael Osofsky's study, most prison employees who perform the executions do not suffer from depression or PTSD. The ones described by Pro are the exception, not the norm. The easiest solution to this is, if you don't want to do what the job offers, don't take it. Those tragic examples that Pro listed is to educate potential employees about the things they will have to do, instead of throwing it upon them, not banning the death penalty.
Yes, inaccuracy is possible in all cases. However, removal of a punishment to replace it with a different one will not benefit anything. For starters, the same amount of people will be wrongly convicted. Yes, it cannot be reversed. However, IF the jury actually bases their votes on wether or not the defendant has been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt will no doubt change this. Yes, innocent people will be executed sometimes. That is terrible, but the risk is in every punishment for that, but the probability that a guilty person will no longer be able to harm people outweighs it.
Quite simply, the government is not killing people to show that killing people is wrong, they are executing criminals because it is their duty to mete out justice. Quite frankly, some crimes are so heinous that the only just punishment is death. That is what it is about. Justice, not a warning to others.
Good luck to my opponent in the next round. You provided some great arguments that were hard to dispute, and are changing my view of the topic.
I would again like to thank Con for his arguments.
You are correct about the death penalty not being only about deterrence. I simply wanted to point out that capital punishment is a notoriously ineffective deterrent, while it is an effective form of retribution and incapacitation. The point of debate is whether or not retribution and incapacitation are necessary or ethical.
I would also like to point out that I am not proponing rehabilitation for these criminals; as you point out, it's far too risky. I am arguing for life imprisonment without possibility of release or parole, which is just as good a form of retribution and almost as good at incapacitating dangerous people.
My favorite question to ask about the death penalty is, "What does it actually accomplish?" It doesn't deter crime, it's costly, it causes innocent prison workers severe psychological harm, and it takes away resources from programs that can actually prevent violence. And isn't preventing more violence, not revenge, the goal? Doesn't making our societies much safer benefit the citizens more than spending precious resources to kill people? The point is, why do we feel that we need to kill other human beings when life imprisonment provides an equally severe form of retribution?
I understand your thinking as I used to believe this myself. Eventually I realized that the government should never be involved in the taking of a human life if it can be avoided. Instead resources should be used for the betterment of the society as a whole.
I concede that the death penalty is a better form of incapacitation, but the possibility of a prisoner actually escaping is incredibly low. Is such a small modicum of security really worth the cost in money, lives, and the well-being of workers?
3. Harm to Workers
The article you cite also gives a reason why most workers don't get PTSD. It's because most prison wardens suffer from moral disengagement instead, which prevents them from suffering from PTSD but causes severe damage to their sense of right and wrong. It's a form of denial, making up excuses to justify your actions with your own moral compass.  The same article also mentions that most workers don't expect that they will have to kill somebody.  You say that this could be alleviated by asking workers if they were okay with carrying out the death penalty. The man I mentioned earlier, McAndrew, was asked the same question and said yes, and still suffered from psychological trauma. The fact of the matter is, having to kill someone as part of your job will always have severe psychological and mental health implications, from a pressing sense of guilt and self hatred to moral disengagement to PTSD, depression, and even suicide.
You say that whether the defendant is guilty determines the death penalty. This implies that any person that is found guilty of a crime punishable by death will be given the death penalty. This is not so, as mandatory sentencing was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1987.  After the defendant is found guilty, the prosecution can decide if it wants to pursue special sentencing (capital punishment) and then the jury will decide if the circumstances are sufficient to merit leniency, and if not, the defendant will be executed. Thus the jury could decide to end a life based off of things such as racial bias. Racism pervades special sentencing procedures and the jury selection process, which results in disproportionate amount of African-American citizens being put to death. As long as we as a society are unable to fairly and impartially carry out irreversible punishments, we must not allow any further executions to take place.
I would again like to thank you for the excellent points you have made and for the great discussion.
1. I actually agree with a lot of what Con is saying in this argument. Yes, preventing violence is the goal. However, he gets a few things totally wrong. The death penalty is not about revenge. It is about justice and vengeance. As I stated in my earlier arguments, some pose such a significant risk or have done such horrible, unimaginable things to people that the only safe and just punishment is death. That is where the difference between vengeance and revenge comes in.
Pro says that the death penalty is about revenge, or "A more personal form of vengeance, and usually centers around feelings of anger or resentment" Vengeance "...is a word that connotes a pursuit of justice for someone other than one"s self"
Basically, vengeance means getting justice for others who have been wronged.
Revenge is just retaliation.
Clearly, in criminal cases, all punishments are determined as vengeance, not petty revenge. It is justice, not retaliation.
Yes, the problems facing prison workers who carry out the death penalty. However, this problem seems to be more about prisons themselves the death sentences. Check out this article. https://www.theguardian.com...
Here's a few quotes. ""You almost become non-human, robotic, emotionless," said Charles Ewlad, the warden at Riverhead correctional facility at the eastern end of New York"s Long Island" That sounds just like what many workers who carry out death sentences feel like, and these are only prison guards! These are some of the things they have to deal with that lead to this. "
He has seen inmates show up at recreational activities with a nine-inch shank sticking out of their eye, others hang themselves, and still others cut their arteries and bleed to death.
"I didn"t know how to release the stuff I kept dreaming about. You"re doing tier count and you"re watching a human being die in front of your eyes because he"s coughing up lungs and screaming with his eyes for help and there"s nothing you can do," Van Patten said. "Even though he"s an inmate, he"s still human"
This isn't meant to trivialize what the workers who enforce the death penalty go through, just to show that it is more of a problem in prisons themselves.
Yes, resources should be used for the betterment of society, but like
I stated above, some crimes are so terrible that the only just punishment is death. Some people are so dangerous that the only safe punishment for everyone who has to come into contact with them is death for the criminal.
2.The money? Yes. If it was to ensure that people like Ted Bundy, James Holmes, (the Dark Knight shooter) and Seung-hui Cho (the Virginia Tech shooter) were absolutely unable to kill anyone else? yes. Most definitely yes. As for the lives and well being of the workers, see my arguments above. It is a problem with the prisons, not Death Row.
3. Again, see earlier arguments and read that article.
4. I did not say (or imply) that anyone found guilty of an offense punishable by death would be killed. I apologize if that's what you got from it, my argument there was very unclear. The simple way to fix racism in trials is to have a very thorough jury selection process, including tests for unconscious bias, as well as a mixed jury of all races and genders. That's how you fix racism in death penalty cases, not removing the punishment.
I keep thinking its so funny how a 13 year old and a 15 year old are debating this topic better and more formally then many adults would... Great arguments, good luck in the next round!
1. Revenge vs. Vengeance
I apologize for using inaccurate language. I didn't know there was a difference between revenge and vengeance. Thank you for informing me. I will be arguing that justice is not the end goal and must unfortunately be sacrificed if the cost to the community is so high.
2. Harm to Prison Workers
You have a good point about how the prison workers will often suffer many of the same traumatic experiences that I have mentioned. However, capital punishment by nature is more extreme and will by nature cause severe psychological damage. You note the extreme suffering of people just working in the prison; death row workers have to deal with this and the crushing guilt of knowing that they killed or helped to kill a fellow human. This is not just something wrong with the prison system; it's an inherent risk in capital punishment. The death penalty (and the whole prison system) are inextricably intertwined. If we are to continue with the death penalty, we must accept the fact that our workers will suffer. We must ask ourselves, is it worth the cost? I certainly don't think so. I'll elaborate on this further below.
Yes, the death penalty is a more effective incapacitator than life without parole. But the difference is so small that this is negligible. From a study by the University of North Carolina: "While the incapacitation argument might have made sense in an era when there were no prisons available for long-term confinement, the empirical evidence suggests that today’s prisons and the widespread availability of long prison terms are just as effective as capital punishment in preventing murderers from repeating their crimes."  So I do concede that capital punishment is better for incapacitation, but the difference is so immeasurably small that it's not worth the social programs that have the power to prevent crime, the lives ruined, and the possibility of killing an innocent person. If the death penalty could reduce the chance of recidivism by, say, 50%, then I would be all for it. But, given the high quality of our state penitentiaries across the country, that chance is not high enough to be worth the cost.
Your argument was perfectly clear; I just read it wrong. I apologize.
Your idea for rooting out racism in trials is good, but do you know if there are any tests currently that can successfully detect unconscious bias? You have a valid point, but it seems like that might be a tricky thing to do.
And finally there's your argument about justice. I agree with you that for some extreme crimes the only just punishment is death. But we must ask ourselves, is justice the end goal? If the pursuit of justice is harming our public workers who keep our communities safe and taking much-needed resources away from things that actually prevent crime, we must sacrifice justice for the common good. Is the pursuit of vengeance more important than a child's future? Is the killing of another human being really worth more than a high schooler's education? Does justice matter more than the well-being and livelihood of the people who seek to create it? (prison workers)
I'm only saying that while I support justice for bad people, justice must be sacrificed if the cost to the common good is too high. In this case, it is.
Good luck in the next round!
Harm to Prison Workers
Yes, capital punishment is more extreme. However, I don't think it causes any more severe psychological damage. You spoke about all these terrible things that death row workers have to deal with, such as depression, PTSD, and suicidal thoughts/actions. However, from what I read in that article, normal prison workers have the same problems. As you said, death row workers have to deal with the normal system as well. Make no mistake, I'm not saying that working on Death
Row won't do anything to anyone, that would be ridiculous. However, again, the things they suffer seem to be identical or very similar to the things that normal prison workers suffer. Based on that, there is a very good chance that working on death row does not impact people as much as you think.
We agree that the death penalty is better on this point. Good. However, we disagree on whether or not prisons are a better alternative for dangerous criminals, such as serial killers. Pro has the BOP, so he has to prove that in every case, the death penalty should be abolished. Because of his arguments, I actually agree with him in most cases. However, I maintain that it is still nessecary for people who are just too dangerous to everyone who comes into contact with them. With that in mind, I say that use, the prison system is more effective for most. However, when dealing with people like the examples listed in my previous argument, (I will use Ted Bundy for this) the death penalty is still the safest alternative for everyone who comes into contact with them. He escaped from the courthouse, but was recaptured. However, after that, he escaped again from his cell. He killed three people before being captured by the police. I say that yes, in cases like this, with intelligent, charismatic, and monstrous serial killers, that the death penalty is worth the cost. The lives of the potential victims are more important then programs to prevent crimes. It's a horrible choice, but in the end I feel that I must pick the one that will make sure sick, terrible people like Bundy will not be able to claim more victims after they are arrested. I'm sure that, if they were alive today,
the victims he killed after escaping would agree with me on that. The lives of killer's potential victims are most definitely worth the cost.
Yes, its a test. You can read about it here:
There's even a link to where you can take the test.
Based on what I have read, working on death row is not harming workers much more then working in normal prisons is. Yes, they both do harm the workers, but they are nessecary for public safety. Normal prisons are taking away resources as well, and are harming workers. Should we get rid of those as well? In the case of serial killers who can escape, yes. The lives of a killer's potential victims are worth more then an education. The fact that the killer would have a good chance of killing multiple people makes it more important then a child's future. There are no good solutions to this, we just need the one that protects people who wouldn't be able to do anything about their situation if a killer came into their house, verses the ones who could choose to not commit crime. I know in some places, that's what you have to do to survive, but if that's the case, what is a government initiative really going to do? It's a terrible choice, but I feel that we must choose the one that protects people who would be helpless in the face of whatever might arise from the choice of the other one.
Like I said in my arguments, you are really changing my view of this topic. Great debate, and good luck!
1. Harm to Prison Workers
I do believe that capital punishment can cause more severe psychological damage; for example, moral disengagement (see Round 3 arguments) that would not normally be widespread in a non-capital punishment situation. The normal prison system involves being in intense situations that may traumatize workers, but I cannot think of anything that would be dealing with violating the workers' sense of morality. This is where the difference is--the trauma from the normal system is because of witnessing disturbing situations, while capital punishment's trauma stems from taking part in these situations yourself. And I do believe that capital punishment causes more severe psychological damage, simply because it deals with actions that put into question the workers' ideas of morality; thus capital punishment leads to moral disengagement and denial.
In addition, I believe that with effective reform of the prison system, PTSD and the like could be dramatically reduced, but the symptoms of capital punishment are inherent, making it a reason to discontinue the use of the death penalty.
I must concede this point. This tragedy with Bundy should have been prevented.
I still believe, however, that capital punishment results in more innocent lives ended than the alternative. See my statistics in Argument #3 for this.
First of all, thank you for providing this test. This should be implemented immediately into the court system.
In response to your incapacitation arguments, I provide this: more than 1 in 25 people sentenced to death in the United States are innocent.  Here's a full list of the innocent that have been executed.  I postulate that the death penalty results in more innocent people killed than the small chance of recidivism that comes with life without parole. Con: "However, IF the jury actually bases their votes on wether [sic] or not the defendant has been proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt will no doubt change this." They already do, though, and we still have 1 in 25 people sentenced to death despite their innocence. I believe that, at least until the courts and the justice system can fix this, we must discontinue the death penalty in order to protect innocent people. It's simply the right thing to do.
Most of this argument is a repetition of claims that I have already refuted, so I will only be responding to parts which haven't been addressed above.
Con: "The lives of a killer's potential victims are worth more then [sic] an education." Yes, this is true, but we must remember that the chances of recidivism in a high-security state penitentiary are remarkably low. Ted Bundy is an exception. Next you say that the killer would have "a good chance of killing multiple people" is just not true. See my source from the UNC study in the previous round.
Con: "...we just need the one that protects people who wouldn't be able to do anything about their situation if a killer came into their house, verses [sic] the ones who could choose to not commit crime." But what about the innocent people who have been executed? This seems to be a strawman; you say that I favor the lives of murderers over potential victims. If I was not clear on my position, I apologize. Because of the high risk of false sentencing in capital punishment, I am instead arguing for the discontinuation because of false sentencing and false execution. Again, it cannot be reversed. Thus, my argument still stands.
Since this argument is based off of previous arguments that I have responded to, I extend my justice argument from Round 4.
Thank you for an amazing debate. Best wishes to you.
Harm to Prison Workers
Yes, Death Row workers do suffer more, but to me it doesn't seem like their symptoms are much worse then normal prison workers. Moral disengagement is not necessarily a bad thing, it just acts as a shield so death row workers can sleep easier at night. Is that so bad? Yes, effective reform would make PTSD lower, but until that is implemented, (And it probably will not be for a while) it seems that Death row workers suffer only a little above normal prison workers.
OK, glad to see that.
I completely agree about the test.
I have to disagree, not about the numbers, I don't know what the actual figure is, but how they got the numbers. To find the percentage of people on death row who are innocent, the team used survival analysis. Survival analysis is "a set of methods for analyzing data where the outcome variable is the time until the occurrence of an event of interest"In other words, they did not actually go on to death row, read each person's case, and see weather or not they could be exonerated or not, because that is impractical. However, mathematics cannot get an accurate picture of how many are innocent, at least not with this method. They use a sample, and that makes this less likely to be accurate. Quite honestly, the amount of people on death row who are innocent could be very high, even at 50%. On the other hand, it could be very low, at 1%. We don't know, because we don't know the accuracy of the sample. It could be normal. It could be abnormal. However, normal or abnormal, we will never know what the percentage actual population is as long as the study makes conclusions about the entire group based on a sample size we don't even know.
Ted Bundy is an exception, but he did happen. That doesn't change the fact that however rare, serial killers who break out of prison are incredibly likely to kill again. That's what I meant by saying that the killer would have a good chance of killing more people, if he/she escaped.
Looking up a straw man, it is apparently misrepresenting, exaggerating, or completely fabricating someone's argument to make it easier to refute. I did not do this, and I didn't say or attempt to imply that. I said that given the choice, we should pick the one that makes sure innocent people who could be targeted would not be targeted (Because the killer is dead), verses the one that means the killer could break out and target said people. As I stated earlier in this round, there really is no way to tell if those statistics are accurate. The number could actually be much higher, the number could be lower. Yes, the execution cannot be reversed. However, prisoners on death row are typically there for a long time because of appeals, their attorneys working on ways to exonerate them, and time for an official pardon. There are even organizations dedicated to exonerating innocent people on death row. Between all of those, it stands to reason that most innocents would not be executed.
In this debate, the burden of proof was on Pro to show that the United States should discontinue the use of capital punishment. This implies that the US should do so in every case. I have shown that to be untrue. Yes, its a small minority of cases with people like Ted Bundy, but sadly, they still exist. In most cases, Pro proved that the death penalty should be abolished. However, Pro failed to prove that the US should not kill dangerous serial killers like Bundy. Because of that, he was unable to completely prove the resolution of the debate. Thank you for reading this, please vote con.
To you as well, this has truly shaped my views of this topic. While I still believe capital punishment is necessary in cases like Bundy's, in general the penalty should not be used. If you had shared BOP you definitely would have won. Thanks for the debate, this site needs more good quality debates like this one.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Hayd 6 months ago
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments
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