Capital punishment history

March 5, 2021

Humanity has never been known for its humane and compassionate treatment of those accused of misdemeanors. From stoning and crucifying, to the invention of the guillotine, anyone seen as “criminals” in the eyes of the people and its government have been torn apart, tortured and killed. The United States is no different and has practiced capital punishment officially since the late 1700’s as a way to punish guilty lawbreakers. However, since its lifetime, it has disproportionately impacted minorities like people of color and disabled citizens in America with court biases and higher rates of executions. Capital punishment must be abolished in the United States due to the racism and prejudice shown in the judicial sentencing, as well as the inhumane treatment, costliness, and the fatal possibility of innocence. 

The death penalty has a long history in the U.S. Starting with the Punishment of Crimes Act in 1790, only 14 years after America declared independence from Britain, this paved the way for the legal, governmental killing of guilty offenders. By the 1800s, the death penalty was required for certain crimes like murder, but many guilty criminals were set free because the jury did not think their crime constituted for such an extreme punishment. The jury would proceed to determine life or death sentencing into the 1900s, and in the 1930s, America averaged 167 deaths per year, according to gale.com. However, capital punishment was met with resistance in the 1960s, and it faced moral, legal, and political opposition. This backlash led to reform in the 1970s, with the judicial system recognizing the racial and mental bias it had previously held. Even with this effort, execution rates steadily rose through the 1970s, as did incarceration. To this day, black citizens are still the majority of Americans on death row, and the recent protests of 2020 have called attention to this inconsistency. Throughout June and later on in the year with the scheduled killings of offenders like Dustin Higgs by the Trump administration, Americans have called for the abandonment of capital punishment. After a 17 year hiatus, Former President Donald Trump scheduled and federally executed 13 people over the span of 6 months, almost half of them black, and including those struggling with mental illness like Lisa Montgomery. With the recent actions of the federal government and the negative response from American citizens, especially within the Black Lives Matter community, now more than ever is time to address, reconcile, and abolish the death penalty and in turn its effect is has had on people over the course of time. 

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