Death penalty to stay, focus should be on prison reform

Texas performs its executions at the Walls Unit in Huntsville.

Texas performs its executions at the Walls Unit in Huntsville.

The United States is currently facing a shortage in the drug necessary to perform lethal injection, the most common form of the death penalty in the 32 states where it’s legal. This shortage is making states rethink how they are going to execute prisoners on death row.

The drug that is used in lethal injection is made by several companies in Europe, and they have refused to sell it to the United States. While these companies have every right to refuse the sale of their products to whomever they want, they also should look at the alternatives that states are considering.

Virginia is considering bringing back the electric chair; in Missouri, the state legislature has a bill to bring back the firing squad. Both of these options are vastly more inhumane than lethal injection, but if these companies continue their blockade then states have no choice but to consider these options.

Of course, there is always the last resort, banning the death penalty, but that will never happen in states like Texas, which has already executed two people this year. Those two executions were performed at the state execution chamber in Huntsville.

For the foreseeable future, the death penalty is here to stay, regardless of the method of execution.

What does need to change with the death penalty is that the courts should be absolutely certain that this person who is going to be executed is guilty of the crime. No one should be executed or sentenced to prison for being completely innocent.

Another problem with America’s prisons is that they are overcrowded. The director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons Charles Samuels Jr. said this when he testified before the Senate last year, and even in the political world Republican Sen. Rand Paul and Democratic Sen. Cory Booker have said that something must be done about the skyrocketing cost of the overcrowding.

One way to cut both the costs and amount of people in federal prisons is to send fewer people there that have committed non-violent drug-related crimes. Another way would be to either reduce or eliminate mandatory-minimum sentences for drug crimes. Of course, there is also the option to legalize marijuana for the entire country, which would alleviate overcrowding, but the U.S. is still years away from doing this.

Maybe, instead of sending non-violent drug related criminals to prison where they are likely to learn more about drugs, they should be sent to rehab.

There is not just one single problem with America’s prisons; there are numerous issues with them. Some of the problems can be solved by Congress because federal prisons are under their jurisdiction, but if members of Congress cannot work together on anything, then reform on the federal level is dead on arrival.

Real reform will happen with the states. Prison reform is one of those issues that should be left up to the states, because they know what they need and can act on it without the help of Washington.

The death penalty is here to stay in the United States. As long as there are murderers and terrorists, America will continue to execute the guilty.

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