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A human life is sacred. From the moment God breathed life into Adam, mankind has borne the image and likeness of the Creator. It would then follow that any attempt to sup­press a life made in the image of God is a rep­re­hen­sible act.

Chris­tians, in general, agree with this. They picket outside abortion clinics, combat Euthanasia, and renounce any form of genocide. When it comes to capital pun­ishment, however, a sur­prising number of Chris­tians support it and even advocate it.

The abuses of the American capital pun­ishment system run rampant and no Christian can support it in its current state. Most people with an under­standing of the American justice system know that the death penalty is inef­fective in most states. Many inmates sit on death row and await their end for years as appeal after appeal is made on their behalf. It is a waste of tax dollars and a nightmare for victims’ fam­ilies. States could reform these issues with a few tweaks to their systems. Regardless of whether one thinks the death penalty is a jus­tified form of pun­ishment, these injus­tices tran­scend one’s per­sonal opinion of capital pun­ishment itself.

According to The Fair Pun­ishment Project, 2,739 pris­oners sit on death row as of 2017. 40 percent have been awaiting exe­cution for at least 20 years. The extensive appeals process can take years to com­plete, and the living con­di­tions of pris­oners on death row are bor­derline tor­turous.

Some are imprisoned in 60-square-foot con­crete cubes and only allowed to leave to exercise or shower. Often kept in cells without windows, inmates cannot make contact with loved ones or anyone from the outside world. Some descend into madness. This form of pun­ishment strips the indi­vidual of all humanity.

No matter how hor­rendous their crimes, these indi­viduals still bear the image of God and deserve basic human rights. The living con­di­tions endured by death row inmates are despi­cable and violate the Christian oblig­ation to protect the sanctity of life. As long as those on death row are kept in hor­rific con­di­tions, Chris­tians cannot support capital pun­ishment in America.

Between 1973 and 2017, states exon­erated 148 inmates from death row, with those exon­er­a­tions taking an average of 10 years. It is esti­mated that 4 percent of inmates put to death were innocent.

The capital pun­ishment system is run by humans, and humans make mis­takes. Sen­tence an innocent person to death and that indi­vidual is stripped of all humanity and then exe­cuted. There is no instance in which we should allow the oppor­tunity for an indi­vidual to be wrongly put to death. Erad­icate the death penalty and the pos­si­bility to end an innocent indi­viduals life ceases to exist.   

The Bible allows capital pun­ishment but does not mandate it. If it is allowed, then one must determine how and why it should be used. In 2005, The United States Con­ference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a doc­ument calling for an end to the death penalty, while affirming the right of the state to execute those who threaten public safety. The doc­ument goes on to say, however, that if the Christian duty is to protect life in all capac­ities, the death penalty must only be used when absolutely nec­essary and never uti­lized when other forms of pun­ishment are available, such as life impris­onment.

Rarely in today’s society would the justice system need to sen­tence a prisoner to death. With current tech­nology, it is not nec­essary to sen­tence anyone to death. Place them in a supermax prison, solitary con­finement, etc. No cir­cum­stance war­rants the death penalty.

Some say that when one commits a crime egre­gious enough to warrant the death penalty they forfeit all rights and can be treated as animals because they aban­doned all restraint in favor of ani­mal­istic ten­dencies. It’s com­pelling logic.

We want nothing more than to see these horrid people get what they deserve. If American Chris­tians support the death penalty, they must answer one important question: Can we stand before God and say that it was absolutely nec­essary to destroy a life that he created?

Regan Meyer is a freshman studying the liberal arts