The Death Penalty

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					The Death Penalty

Overview/Background
The United States is one of the last countries in the world that still
uses death as punishment for certain crimes. Many think this is barbaric
and against American values. Others see it as an important tool in
fighting the most violent crimes. Two things have once again brought this
issue to national debate. One is that new studies that show that some
innocent people have been put to death. The second is the issue of
terrorism and the need to punish terrorists.

SHOULD WE GET RID OF THE DEATH PENALTY???
Yes:

It is more expensive to taxpayers to put someone to death than it is to
keep him in jail for life. Most people don't realize that carrying out one
death sentence costs 2-5 times more than keeping that same criminal in
prison for the rest of his life. How can this be? It has to do with the
loooong legal process that takes forever and costs a lot of money. Many
prisoners are on “death row” for 15-20 years. Judges, lawyers, court
reporters, clerks, and the actual buildings all cost taxpayer dollars. It
is also time & space that could be used for other unresolved matters. The
court system is backed up. This would help move things along. Do we really
have the resources to waste?

It is barbaric and is illegal since "cruel and unusual" punishment is not
allowed in the Constitution. The 8th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
prevents the use of "cruel and unusual punishment".

We as a society have to move away from the "eye for an eye" revenge
mentality. The "eye for an eye" mentality will never solve anything. A
society that looks for revenge has an endless cycle of violence. Why do
you think gang violence in this country never seems to end? It is
important to send the message that hurting your enemy purely for revenge
will always make matters worse. 

It sends the wrong message: Why kill people who kill people to show
killing is wrong? Yes, we want to make sure criminals are responsible for
their actions and we want to stop them. However, the country is actually
using a murder to punish someone who committed a murder. Does that make
sense?


Other countries (especially in Europe) would be pleased. Anti-Americanism
is seen around the world. One of the reasons is America's use of the death
penalty. We're seen as a violent, vengeful nation. This is pretty much the
same view that Europeans had of America when we kept slavery long after
they got rid of it in Europe.


The prisoner's family must suffer from seeing their loved one put to
death. One victim's innocent family is obviously forced to suffer from a
murder, but by using a death sentence, you force another family to suffer.
Why double the suffering when we don't have to?


Innocent men and women may be put to death. There have been times when DNA
testing showed that innocent people were put to death by the government.
Our justice system isn’t perfect. Poor defendants don’t always get good
lawyers. Some would blame the court system and not the death penalty for
these problems, but we can't risk mistakes.


It is useless because it doesn't bring the victim back to life. Perhaps
the biggest reason to get rid of the death penalty is that it doesn't
change the fact that the victim is gone and will never come back. Hate,
revenge, and anger will never fix the emptiness of a lost loved one.
Forgiveness is the only way to start the healing process, and this won't
happen in a revenge-focused individual.





No:

The death penalty gives closure to the victim's families who have suffered
so much. Some family members of crime victims may take years or decades to
recover from the loss of a loved one. Some may never recover. One of the
things that helps this recovery is to get closure. Life in prison just
means the criminal is still around to haunt the victim. A death sentence
brings an end to a horrible chapter in the lives of these family members.


It prevents crime. Crime would be out of control if there weren’t some way
to stop people from committing crimes. Prison time stops people from
committing crimes, but with some people, more is needed. We should have a
variety of punishments in order to keep all people from committing crimes.

Justice is better served. The punishment should fit the crime. When
someone murders another person, doesn't it make sense that the punishment
for the perpetrator also be death?


Our justice system shows more sympathy for criminals than it does victims.
We should worry about protecting the victim instead of the criminal.
Remember, a person on death row has almost always committed crimes before
this. We need justice for current and past victims.


It keeps prisoners serving a life sentence from committing more crimes.
What about people already sentenced to life in prison. What's to stop them
from murdering people constantly while in prison? What are they going to
do--extend his sentence? What about a person sentenced to life who happens
to escape? What's to stop him from killing anyone who might try to bring
him in?

DNA testing and modern science makes us almost completely certain of a
person’s guilt or innocence. One of the biggest arguments against the
death penalty is the possibility of error. Sure, we can never completely
eliminate all uncertainty, but nowadays, it's about as close as you can
get. DNA testing is over 99 percent effective. And remember, a jury of 12
members must all agree that there's no doubt the person is guilty.



Statistics:

In 2008, 37 persons in nine states were executed -- 18 in Texas; 4 in
Virginia; 3 each in Georgia and South Carolina; 2 each in Florida,
Mississippi, Ohio, and Oklahoma, and 1 in Kentucky. 


Of persons executed in 2008:
 -- 20 were white
 -- 17 were black. All 37
inmates executed in 2008 were men.

 Thirty-seven states and the federal government had laws allowing them to
give the death sentence in 2007.

Among inmates given death sentences and with available criminal histories
in 2007:
 -- 2 in 3 had an earlier felony conviction
 -- 1 in 12 had an
earlier homicide conviction. 


The average age at time of arrest was 29; nearly 1 in 9 inmates were age
19 or younger at the time of arrest. 


Statistics from: U.S. Department of Justice,
http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/cp.htm.




THREE STRIKES LAWS

Overview/Background:

California has a new way of dealing with repeat criminals--the Three
Strikes Law. It says that a person who is convicted of three felonies gets
at least a 25-to-life sentence. A felony is defined as any crime
punishable by 1 year or more in prison.

Some people don’t like the law because it is a “one-size-fits-all
sentence” for criminals who are very different. One time a young man
received the required sentence after stealing a pizza. However, some
people like the law because so many repeat criminals always seem to slip
through the justice system without the three-strikes law in force.

Yes:
It makes it so that repeat offenders stay in prison. Many victims feel
that the U.S. judicial system has become somewhat of a joke. Exceptions to
rules, slowness, light sentences, and plea bargaining has let many
criminals slip through the cracks. Most of the crime nowadays is committed
by repeat offenders. The three strikes law is a way to make sure justice
is served even if the system usually fails.

The law is a big reason not to commit another crime after the 2nd
conviction. Is there a better way to stop criminals than knowing you will
definitely go to jail for at least 25 years if convicted again? It's not
like this law is secret or unknown to the criminals.


The media likes to show the few cases where criminals were locked up for
small crimes and doesn’t show how well this law actually works. The media
sometimes shows poor, helpless felons in jail for the rest of their lives
for stealing videos or pizza, or committing some other "harmless" crime.
Unfortunately, this isn’t usually the case. With thousands of cases,
you're always bound to find exceptions like these. However, the law
punishes rapists, armed robbers, extortionists, organized criminals, and
more.

The law applies to 3 convictions, not 3 crimes. Many criminals with 3
convictions actually got away with many other crimes. We all know that in
the real world criminals get away with many crimes. Thus, when the three-
strikes law is applied, it is often applied to a criminal who has
committed far more than 3 crimes.


No:

The law takes away the freedom and flexibility of the courts and the
judge. Every criminal offender is different. Every set of crimes is
different. The reason we have judges, juries, and lawyers is that each
situation deserves a fair reading and punishment. A one-size-fits-all
system of judgment destroys the flexibility.

It isn’t always fair, like when there is no “victim” of the crime or when
the criminal is very young. There are always going to be cases like the
stealing videos or pizza that are unfair under the three-strikes law. You
may have an 18-year old who commits three crimes before he's mature enough
to make good decisions. You may have several smaller crimes such as
burglary, breaking & entering, or stealing a car. Certainly committing
these crimes are wrong and deserve punishment; however, is 25 years to
life a reasonable punishment?


An arrest of someone with two convictions almost guarantees a long and
expensive trial. If a 2-time convicted felon is arrested again, it's
pretty much guaranteed that he will want a trial. If he's guaranteed a 25-
to-life sentence, what's the point of pleading guilty? It doesn't matter
how many witnesses or how much evidence is available, the defendant will
ask for a trial. This will cost more and take longer.
The law adds more criminals to an already crowded and expensive prison
system. It is expensive to keep a person in jail for life. Prisons are
overflowing from massive growth. Adding more prisoners (who may not even
deserve to be there) to this system just makes matters worse.
Universal Healthcare
Overview/Background:

Health care costs are out of control in this country. On
average, we now spend more per person on health care than both
food and housing. While the quality and availability of medical
care in the United States is among the best in the world, many
wonder whether we'd be better off with a government-controlled
health care system like the one in Canada.

Yes:

There are over 45 million uninsured citizens (including illegal
immigrants). Since health care costs continue to grow, many
businesses are choosing to not offer health insurance. Employees
then have to pay higher costs themselves and often choose to go
without healthcare. People without health insurance still
receive healthcare at hospitals and free clinics. Since this is
not covered by insurance the taxpayers pay the costs.

Health care has become increasingly unaffordable for businesses
and individuals. Businesses and individuals that choose to keep
their health plans still must pay a much higher amount.
Remember, businesses only have a certain amount of money they
can spend on labor. If they must spend more on health insurance
premiums, they will have less money to spend on raises, new
hires, investment, and so on. Individuals who must pay more for
premiums have less money to spend on rent, food, and consumer
goods; in other words, less money is pumped back into the
economy. Thus, health care prevents the country from making a
robust economic recovery. A simpler government-controlled system
that reduces costs would go a long way in helping that recovery.

We can rid of lots of paper work! Think back to all the times in
your life you've had to fill out a medical history, answering
the same questions over and over. The thing that's especially
wasteful is that each doctor's office usually maintains their
own record-keeping system. A universal healthcare plan would
allow us to have only one system. The savings in the banking and
postal areas alone would be worth billions every year.

Medical professionals can concentrate on healing the patient
rather than on insurance procedures. Doctors have to take
classes now just to understand all the insurance plans out
there; sometimes they can only run certain tests on certain
insurance plans. A simpler health system would allow doctors and
nurses to simply focus on doing what's best for the patient.

Patients who are already sick can still get health coverage. One
of the biggest problems in our current health care system is
that patients who are already sick with something like cancer or
asthma can’t get affordable healthcare. Some insurance companies
won't even give insurance to these people. Anyone with an
expensive illness has two choices: use up all their own money,
or go without help. In a universal system, everyone could get
the care they need.




No:

The government does not do a good job running anything; do we really
want them handling something as difficult as healthcare? We've all
heard stories of government wasting money, like spending a million
dollars studying cow farts.

"Free" health care isn't really free since we have to pay for it with
our taxes. Healthcare would have to be paid for with higher taxes or
by spending less in other areas such as defense and education. What
good would it do to wipe out a few hundred dollars of healthcare
payments if our taxes go up by that much or more? If we have to cut
AIDS research or education spending, is it worth it?


Government-controlled health care would mean less flexibility. For
example, would "elective" (unnecessary) surgeries such as breast
implants, wart removal, and lasik eye surgery be covered? Then you
may say, that's easy, make patients pay for unnecessary surgeries.
Although some procedures are obviously not needed, who decides what
is unnecessary and what is required? What about a breast reduction
for back problems? What about a nose job to fix a septum problem
caused in an accident? Whenever the government controls something,
politics screws things up. Suddenly, every medical procedure and
situation is going to come down to a political battle. That will put
in controls that limit patient options.
Patients will spend a lot more than they really need to on healthcare
if it’s free so total costs will be much higher than what they are
now. Sure, it would be nice if we had the resources to treat every
ache and pain, but we don't. For example, what if a patient is having
trouble sleeping? What if a patient has a minor cold, flu, or
headache? There are lots of problems that we wouldn't go to a doctor
to solve if we had to pay for it; however, if everything is free, why
not go? The result is that doctors must spend more time on
unnecessary care, and the patients that really need immediate help
must wait

Just because Americans don’t have insurance doesn't mean they can't
receive health care. Many hospitals provide help to those who don't
have insurance, and it is illegal not to give someone emergency
medical service because they don’t have insurance.

Healthy people who take care of themselves will have to pay for the
burden of those who don’t. Universal health care means the costs will
be spread to all Americans, regardless of your health, which is
unfair. Your lifestyle affects your health. Those who exercise, eat
right, don't smoke, don't drink, etc. have far fewer health problems
Why should we punish those that live a healthy lifestyle and reward
the ones who don't?


A long, painful transition will have to take place involving lost
insurance industry jobs and business closures. A universal health
plan means the entire health insurance industry would be unnecessary.
All companies in that area would have to go out of business, meaning
all people employed in the industry would be out of work. Many
hospital record clerks that dealt with insurance would also be out of
work. A number of these unemployed would be able to get jobs in the
new government healthcare industry, but it would still be a long,
painful transition.




Required Testing in Schools
Overview/Background:
President Bush's No Child Left Behind Act created lots of new
testing requirements. Students are required to take standardized
reading, math, and science tests. Some argue that it should
include other subjects, too. The idea behind the act is to
create higher standards to push students ahead and to stop
children who clearly don't meet the requirements of a certain
grade level from passing. The debate is about whether or not
this improves the education level of students and whether it is
fair.

Yes:

It makes students and schools accountable for success. We all
sometimes need a push to study and do our best. Unfortunately,
schools and teachers around the country have lowered their
standards. Some teachers teach easy classes because they want
their students to like them. Others don't want students who are
behind to feel bad so they make it easier. Unfortunately, this
keeps students from doing their best. If a student can do very
little studying and still get an A, why would they try harder?
Requiring state testing makes sure that students learn a certain
amount of material no matter who their teachers are and no
matter which schools they go to.

Mandatory testing also makes schools more responsible. If a lot
of students from a certain school are failing the tests, it
gives the government an idea where it should spend its time and
resources. We can also reward the best schools.

It motivates students to really learn the material instead of
just memorizing for tests. American students at all levels have
become great at memorization. Cramming the night before a test
has become normal instead of the slow, methodical approach that
creates lasting results. If students know they have to take a
standardized test at the end of the year, they have more reason
to focus on really learning the material rather than just
learning enough to get a good grade in their class.

Knowledge builds on what you already know, so a student doing
poor early can end up always behind. To learn to read, you must
understand the alphabet and phonics. To learn history and
English, you need to understand how to read and write. To learn
algebra and geometry, you must know how to add and subtract. To
learn chemistry, you have to understand algebra. If you struggle
with a subject such as math yet pass anyway, chances are you're
going to struggle in algebra. The problem might not be that
algebra is especially difficult, but that you don't understand
the basic math part of it. In this country, it's become common
to pass students to the next grade level even when they don't
understand the material. Therefore, students find school harder
and harder as time goes by. Students fall further behind and
become more discouraged. Standardized testing would make sure
that students aren't pushed into a grade level they aren't ready
for. Isn't it much better to have a student repeat one year than
end up behind the rest of his or her school career, and be
discouraged from learning in the process?




No:

Standardized tests can be biased or unfair. SAT exams, for
example, have been accused for years of being culturally biased.
An example is in English. If a question asks for the proper
English "The man got himself a dog" vs. "The man got hisself a
dog", students from big cities may pick the second choice, which
may be how most of the people around him speak. Sometimes terms,
e.g., "suburb" and "Mardi Gras", may be familiar to a certain
segment of the student population but not others. Often,
immigrants from Mexico or Native Americans may face words and
sentences that are completely unknown to them. These students
may then do poorly on tests not because they don't know the
material but because they don't understand the questions. A
student’s ability to advance to the next grade or get into a
good college shouldn't be affected by a biased, unfair exam.

Students in failing school districts will be punished. Not every
student is lucky enough to live in a district with a great
public school. Many students go to really bad schools that do
not provide good environments for learning. Drugs, gangs, guns,
bad teachers, a lack of money, and other problems can keep these
students from getting a good education. Even if the student is
hard-working and disciplined, the poor learning environment may
hold him or her back. Is it really fair that students in these
situations be held back simply because they weren't lucky enough
to be born in a richer or safer area?

It takes flexibility away from teachers. The best teachers are
those that can connect with students and inspire them to want to
learn. The best teachers use a variety of techniques to make
learning interesting and fun. Introducing standardized tests
takes away the flexibility of teachers, who may be forced to
give boring lectures and quizzes. Each student and situation is
different. We should leave the teacher with as much freedom as
possible in designing a class.

				
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