On Friday, July 20, Aurora, Colorado was shaken by the seemingly random act of violence on the part of James Eagan Holmes, a 24-year-old with no discernible motive, who killed 12 people and injured 58 more. As Holmes makes his first appearance in court today, many are clamoring for Holmes to be sentenced to the death penalty; however, I do not believe that in this case, nor any other case, that the death penalty is the answer.
What James Holmes did is both inexplicable and inexcusable; however, what right does the American government or any governing body have to take a life. If what Holmes is being tried for is taking a life, or in this case, many lives, we no longer live in a society in which an eye for an eye is a way of living. America's prison system is in place in order to reform criminals; however, due to horrific standards within America's prisons, they do not reform, but rather, take regular people and turn them into hardened criminals. A life in prison is not a life at all, and the torture of having this young man stay alive in prison is more than punishment enough.
One factor one could be to look at the cost. Amnesty International looked at the costs associated with the death penalty and found that a death penalty case can cost three times more than a regular case. When continuing to look at costs, according to this Mountain News article, if you were to put a 31 year old, just seven years older than Holmes, in prison for life (which they estimate to be until 65), it would cost roughly $1.6 million. If that same prisoner were to spend 20 years on death row instead of 34 years in the general population, it would cost nearly $2.75 million, which is 70% more expensive for half the time.
According to an MSNBC article, one case cost as much as $3.5 million, and at the end of the day, the man was exonerated. In that same article, the prisoner in question said, "If you really want to kill someone, give them life without parole". The prisoner continued, "It's worse than dying."
The death penalty across the globe is being used less and less, and America's insistence upon permitting this maintains that in some regards, we are still an antiquated country. Alternatively, 96% of European countries have abolished the death penalty, and 97 countries worldwide have abolished the practice of capital punishment. It is time that America follow suit and not just wait for the economic realities of the death penalty to make each state abolish this barbaric practice.