Capital Punishment and the Boston Marathon bombing – Conservative Article
The Boston Marathon bombing has recently re-emerged into mainstream discourse following a controversial decision to overturn the death sentence for one of the culprits of the attack. Death sentences, in general, seemed to be a thing of the past as they became increasingly unpopular over the last two decades. Despite this, as federal executions resume in the US for the first time in over 15 years, the time to discuss this divisive topic is now.
In my opinion, we should utilize the death penalty only in extreme instances. There must be clear and undeniable evidence that the accused has truly committed a crime so horrific that capital punishment is the only option. As such, prosecutors must ensure to check every minute detail so as not to make any mistakes in their investigations. There is little room for error when someone’s life is on the line.
Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev carried out the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15th, 2013 at the annual Boston Marathon. Two homemade explosives, 14 seconds apart, were set off at separate locations near the finish line. The attack killed three and injured 264 people. While Tamerlan died in a shootout with police, Dzhokhar survived and received multiple life sentences. He was later sentenced to death on June 24th, 2015.
Recently, Dzhokhar successfully appealed his death sentence and is set to have a new trial.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was undeniably responsible, alongside his deceased brother, for the Boston Marathon bombing. Keeping Dzhokhar in jail for life is a waste of taxpayer money. Capital punishment is not necessarily a cheaper alternative though.
Estimates show that the average yearly cost to house a prisoner is around $30,000 to $60,000 USD. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is currently 27 years old and has already been imprisoned for seven years. He has already cost the US taxpayer between $210,000 and $420,000 USD. Assuming Dzhokhar will live another 50 years or so, a rough estimate of the cost of his life sentence will be around $2.3m USD.
On the other hand, the estimated cost calculated during a 2003 legislative audit in Kansas for a death penalty trial was near $1.25 million, just over half of that of a life sentence. However, this cost drastically differs from state to state. Some states such as Maryland reported costs as high as $3 m. Because of this, Maryland is one of the most recent states to have abandoned the usage of the death penalty. This has been an ongoing trend in the last two decades, as many states begin to reconsider and step away from the use of capital punishment.
I find myself quite divided on the future of capital punishment. On one hand, capital punishment should remain an option for prosecutors. But the death sentence serves as another tool for the Federal government to strip citizens of their freedom, and another reason to further increase taxes.
The astronomically high numbers regarding life sentences and death sentences present a clear need for system-wide reform. Many non-violent crimes such as drug possession crimes or financial crimes should no longer lead to imprisonment. Simply fining the accused or requiring them to complete community service would be sufficient. The current system of capital punishment fails to make society safer and exists as an extra burden on the taxpayer.
Moving forward, we should aim to retroactively release those currently incarcerated for non-violent crimes. Marijuana possession or tax evasion should not land a person in jail alongside a rapist or a murderer. This would lead to a reduced cost to maintain the behemoth that is the US prison system. Fewer people incarcerated would lead to a reduction of taxes, as it would be one less issue the US taxpayer would have to cover.
While the future of capital punishment remains unclear, the decision to overturn Dzhokhar’s death sentence has brought the topic of capital punishment to light. Moving forward, this trial will hopefully lead to productive conversations regarding the future of the US justice system. Will the current trend of states reducing or outright banning the use of capital punishment continue? Or will this trial cause states to reconsider, and potentially overturn previous decisions?
Written by Guest Conservative Writer, Sebastian Calcopietro
Point of Information
Capital punishment is outdated, however… – A Liberal Response
Having read Seb’s article, I agree that I also am conflicted regarding capital punishment. I believe that it is an outdated method. Sentencing someone to death is inhumane, how can we justify taking a life? I understand that those who are given the death penalty often deserve it, assuming they have committed the accused crime. But, to me, it is morally troubling to suggest that we take ‘an eye for an eye’.
I believe that serving life imprisonment is a more viable option. I acknowledge the costs mentioned by my colleague, but is being in a cell with no access to freedom not enough punishment? Freedom is something that can easily be taken for granted, that is until it’s stripped from you.
To know that the perpetrator of the Boston Marathon bombing would remain in prison, with little to no chance of being released, is a large enough punishment in my opinion. If we use the death penalty, we are taking an imperfect justice.
My main concern with imprisonment is its role. Seen in many countries, serving a prison sentence is supposed to operate as rehabilitation. I expect non-violent offenders to reflect on their decisions and have the opportunity to demonstrate acknowledgement of their mistake. But committing an act of terror, against civilians, cannot be undone. It cannot be justified to allow rehabilitation when the life of another human is purposefully taken.
The concept of capital punishment is a troubling dilemma. It depends on the purpose of serving a prison sentence. In my opinion, the role of the sentence varies case by case. Non-violent offenders tend to have a greater chance of being rehabilitated and no longer are a threat to society. Those who commit violent crimes, perhaps they have had their shot and don’t deserve another chance?
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Charlie Papamichael.
The death penalty is an immoral distraction – A Labour Response
It is perhaps a testament to the difficulties of questions surrounding capital punishment that both Seb and Charlie’s articles seem to raise more questions than they answer. For me, however, the answer is more simple: I am firmly against the idea of capital punishment in any instance.
This is due to a number of both moral and practical reasons, the totality of which cannot all be dealt with here. My most fundamental objection, however, is that while Seb states there is ‘little room for error’ when it comes to capital punishment, I believe when it comes to taking a person’s life there is no room for error. As errors will always be made in any criminal-justice system, this is tantamount to saying there is never a place for capital punishment. The stakes are simply too high.
Moreover, I challenge any supporter of capital punishment to tell me what the death penalty provides for collective justice and safety that is not more morally achieved through life-imprisonment.
As Seb argues, economic arguments in favour of capital punishment over life imprisonment are indeed often flawed. More objectionably, however, they also subordinate issues of human morality to questions of tax rates.
Most often, objections to high levels of prison spending betray a public lack of faith in our rotten justice systems. It is right to question the expense of an inept, racist and inhumane prison system, and reform is drastically needed.
After all, who would object to paying taxes if they knew that they would be used most effectively to ensure the safety of the general population and the rehabilitation of those who most desperately need it?
The arguments surrounding capital punishment detract from the issue our already morally objectionable and ineffective prison systems. Look beyond death row, to incarceration rates and quasi slavery in private American prisons to see that this is the case.
Written by Guest Labour Writer, Marco Dryburgh
I am a second year student currently reading International Relations and Modern Languages at the University of Exeter.
I’m a third-year History and Arabic student at the University of Manchester, and have just returned to London after an abortive year abroad learning Arabic in Jordan (thanks, Covid). Travelling and living abroad in a country and culture as different to ours as Jordan’s is without the obligatory reflection of your own values and priorities is impossible.