Forms of execution as punishment have been practiced among societies since the very beginning. Though they have evolved over time, the same underlying theme has existed through the evolution of society: if you kill, you are killed.
To some this logic seems barbaric, but the majority of Americans believe that the death penalty should be acceptable and viable as a punishment in instances of disregard for life.
On June 9th 2022, the Gallup organization performed their annual Values and Beliefs survey and uncovered that only 55% of Americans were in favor of the death penalty as a viable means of punishment. This is only 1% higher than Gallup’s 2020 survey, an all time low in this category.
Although the percentage of Americans that do not support the death penalty is rapidly rising and has been rising for some time now, most states still allow the death penalty. As of 2022, 27 states still perform executions, as opposed to the 23 that have taken it off the books.
Critics of executions display many reasons of disgust towards this means of punishment, but it all stems down to one question. This question was asked by former Virginia governor Ralph Northam, “Is it fair? For the state to apply this ultimate, final punishment...”.
These critics view this policy as a human rights issue, and do not believe that the government should have the authority to end a human being's life as punishment for action. These punishments are seen as “cruel and unusual,” as said by former Supreme Court Justice Stewart Potter.
As said previously there are in fact more supporters of executions in America than there are critics, and they see this issue the same way as it is stated in Hammurabi’s Code: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
One way that supporters justify their stance is by using the death penalty as a defense against the murders of innocent civilians. Roy D. Adler and Michael Summers created a line chart comparing the number of executions by the state per year compared to the number of murders. The number of murders stays relatively even until 1992 where the number of murders started to decrease. That same year executions by the state had hit an all time high. From 1992 on the number of murder continued to decrease as the number of executions continued to reach new highs. From this data, we can assume that the threat of losing your life became greater than the temptation to end another.
Although both sides of this argument are logical, the general public seems to take a very aggressive and polarizing stance on one side of this aisle. According to the statistics, it seems that in the near future the majority of Americans will be against the death penalty, and the state legislature will be quick to follow.
The country will never come to an agreement on this matter until we can learn to conversate effectively and have an open mind on opinions outside of our own. Until we can see eye to eye it will always be an eye for an eye.