The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Conflicting conclusions

Stephanie McKay | Sunday, December 4, 2011

Dear Ms. Koziel (“The cost of death,” Dec. 2),

To say life in parole would serve as a more cost effective punishment to the death penalty is to ignore more than half of the framework on which our punitive system is founded.

Punishment is not only looked at through its cost-effectiveness, but also its effectiveness as a deterrent, as necessary retribution for society and a possible process of rehabilitation for the perpetrator (though most would agree rehabilitation for those who have committed capital crimes is unattainable).

Whether the death penalty serves as a deterrent for future crimes is still dubious, there are several conflicting conclusions as to the punishment’s effectiveness.

The real question is whether or not capital punishment serves as proper retribution for those who have committed the most heinous crimes — and it is along these lines that most people diverge in opinion.

Retribution depends on personal and state interpretation of the crime and the law.

In the thirty-five states that practice the death penalty, if the crime is defined by the state as an “aggravating circumstance,” the perpetrator will face the death penalty.

For these heinous crimes, many people feel that the appropriate punishment is death regardless of cost.

“Aggravating circumstances” vary from state to state. These often divergent and ambiguous understandings of aggravated offenses lead to disparate interpretations of the appropriate use of capital punishment, which indicate clear conflicts of procedural justice at the state level.

Considering, then, the finality and severity of capital punishment, coupled with the right of citizens to equality under law, it must only be carried out in the fairest and most effective way possible.

But one cannot oversimplify the argument as an issue solely of cost effectiveness, especially when one considers the heinous crimes committed and the emotional toll that these devastations take on friends and family members of the victims. The divergence in opinion is derived from moral grounds, which is why this conflict has become so difficult to resolve.

If we wish to address the question of capital punishment, we must not only do so from a practical standpoint, but from an ethical standpoint as well.

Stephanie McKay


Welsh Family Hall

Dec. 2