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Veteran belonging and the decline of American communities discussed by journalist and author at Amherst College -

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November 15, 2017

The death penalty is not the answer

Paul Robinson/Flickr

(Paul Robinson/Flickr)

On Jan. 10, 2017, Dylann Roof was sentenced to death for killing nine members of the Emanuel African Methodist Church more than a year ago. Prior to the verdict, Roof had been found guilty of thirty-three counts.

This high profile case and its verdict of capital punishment in a federal case have led to a renewed debate of the death penalty in the United States. Some have asked, “does he deserve that death penalty?” No. He does not and neither does anyone else. What criminals like Dylann Roof, those who have committed heinous crimes, deserve is life in prison.

Dylann Roof, repeatedly throughout his trials, did not express any regret for what he did. While incredibly disturbing and sickening, killing this man will do little to right the wrongs of his crimes and hatred. He is a hateful person, who deserves to be locked up for life, but putting him to death is not the right way to punish him.

Life in prison without a possibility of parole takes away a criminal’s livelihood. They are unable to participate in society, they must spend the rest of their life pondering their crimes, and they will be unable to live a normal life. The death penalty, while a permanent decision, lasts only for a few moments. The criminal is able to escape their punishment through death.

Although Dylann Roof’s conviction has been corroborated with much evidence, some people convicted and sentenced to death are not the true criminals. The permanent punishment of the death penalty has led to people being wrongly executed.

Some argue that capital punishment deters crime; that by making an example of one criminal, it will reduce similar crimes. Of leading criminologists, 88 percent do not believe that capital punishment deters crime.

From an economic standpoint, it is cheaper to keep a criminal in prison for life than to execute them. Some believe that killing an inmate is cheaper than keeping them alive, but the costs of lawyers, court hearings and more end up costing taxpayers more. Donald McCartin, a judge who has sentenced nine men to death row and is known as The Hanging Judge of Orange County, has said that, “It’s 10 times more expensive to kill them than to keep them alive.” He sees it as a waste of time and money as well as prolonging the agony of the victims’ families.

The families of the nine people massacred by Dylann Roof did not support the decision to sentence him to death. A study showed that the death penalty “adversely affects families of victims and defendants.” Families report not feeling closure from the death penalty. These families have been through hell and back; many just want to see the criminal locked away. Nothing will ever bring back their loved ones and nothing will ever make up for their losses, and the death penalty adds more to that pain.

Most of Europe does not support the death penalty. One hundred and forty countries in the world have abolished the death penalty, either in law or in practice. Lessening support by the rest of the world is for good reason. Examples like the case in Oklahoma, where the lethal injection did not kill Clayton Lockett immediately, instead causing him to die of a heart attack forty minutes after the injection, have sparked discussions about the constitutionality of the event. What happened to Mr. Lockett could be seen as cruel and unusual punishment, an act prohibited by the Constitution.

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, right? Then why support the death penalty? The United States is behind other developed nations in its way of thinking and I fear that cases like Dylann Roof will reinforce the American belief in the death penalty. But there is some hope. In March 2015, 56 percent of Americans supported it for murder. But, according to a recent report in September 2016 from Pew Research Center, 49 percent of Americans support the death penalty for a murder conviction, while 42 percent oppose it. I hope that this trend continues.

No matter how hard it is to reject the eye for an eye thinking in Dylann Roof’s case, killing him is not the answer. It is difficult. It is difficult to swallow that this man is not sorry for what he did. I understand that. But the death penalty is not to be used to make a statement. The United States should not be killing its criminals, no matter what they have done. The death penalty is not an absolute and it is not the answer. What Dylann Roof did was a heinous, malicious hate crime. He has ruined the lives of so many with his hate. His life would be better ruined with a punishment in the form of life in prison, not with his life ending to escape his crime.

Emilia Beuger is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at

One Response to “The death penalty is not the answer”
  1. David Hunt 1990 says:

    I disagree; make him into crispy critters. His chance of re-offending will be, precisely, zero.

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