Essays About the Death Penalty: Top 5 Examples and Prompts

The death penalty is a major point of contention all around the world. Read our guide so you can write well-informed essays about the death penalty. 

Out of all the issues at the forefront of public discourse today, few are as hotly debated as the death penalty. As its name suggests, the death penalty involves the execution of a criminal as punishment for their transgressions. The death penalty has always been, and continues to be, an emotionally and politically charged essay topic.

Arguments about the death penalty are more motivated by feelings and emotions; many proponents are people seeking punishment for the killers of their loved ones, while many opponents are mourning the loss of loved ones executed through the death penalty. There may also be a religious aspect to support and oppose the policy. 

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1. The Issues of Death Penalties and Social Justice in The United States (Author Unknown)

“Executing another person only creates a cycle of vengeance and death where if all of the rationalities and political structures are dropped, the facts presented at the end of the day is that a man is killed because he killed another man, so when does it end? Human life is to be respected and appreciated, not thrown away as if it holds no meaningful value.”

This essay discusses several reasons to oppose the death penalty in the United States. First, the author cites the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, saying that the death penalty is inhumane and deprives people of life. Human life should be respected, and death should not be responded to with another death. In addition, the author cites evidence showing that the death penalty does not deter crime nor gives closure to victims’ families. 

Check out these essays about police brutality.

2. Serving Justice With Death Penalty by Rogelio Elliott

“Capital punishment follows the constitution and does not break any of the amendments. Specific people deserve to be punished in this way for the crime they commit. It might immoral to people but that is not the point of the death penalty. The death penalty is not “killing for fun”. The death penalty serves justice. When justice is served, it prevents other people from becoming the next serial killer. It’s simple, the death penalty strikes fear.”

Elliott supports the death penalty, writing that it gives criminals what they deserve. After all, those who commit “small” offenses will not be executed anyway. In addition, it reinforces the idea that justice comes to wrongdoers. Finally, he states that the death penalty is constitutional and is supported by many Americans.

3. Can you be Christian and support the death penalty? by Matthew Schmalz

“The letter states that this development of Catholic doctrine is consistent with the thought of the two previous popes: St. Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

St. John Paul II maintained that capital punishment should be reserved only for “absolute necessity.” Benedict XVI also supported efforts to eliminate the death penalty.

Most important, however, is that Pope Francis is emphasizing an ethic of forgiveness. The Pope has argued that social justice applies to all citizens. He also believes that those who harm society should make amends through acts that affirm life, not death.”

Schmalz discusses the Catholic position on the death penalty. Many early Catholic leaders believed that the death penalty was justified; however, Pope Francis writes that “modern methods of imprisonment effectively protect society from criminals,” and executions are unnecessary. Therefore, the Catholic Church today opposes the death penalty and strives to protect life.

4.  Death penalty: Persuasive essay by Jerome Glover

“There are many methods of execution, like electrocution, gas chamber, hanging, firing squad and lethal injection. For me, I just watched once on TV, but it’s enough to bring me nightmares. We only live once and we will lose anything we once had without life. Life is precious and can’t just be taken away that easily. In my opinion, I think Canada shouldn’t adopt the death penalty as its most severe form of criminal punishment.”

Glover’s essay acknowledges reasons why people might support the death penalty; however, he believes that these are not enough for him to support it. He believes capital punishment is inhumane and should not be implemented in Canada. It deprives people of a second chance and does not teach wrongdoers much of a lesson. In addition, it is inhumane and deprives people of their right to life. 

5. The death penalty by Kamala Harris

“Let’s be clear: as a former prosecutor, I absolutely and strongly believe there should be serious and swift consequences when one person kills another. I am unequivocal in that belief. We can — and we should — always pursue justice in the name of victims and give dignity to the families that grieve.

But in our democracy, a death sentence carried out by the government does not constitute justice for those who have been put to death and proven innocent after the fact.”

This short essay was written by the then-presidential candidate and current U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris to explain her campaign’s stance on the death penalty. First, she believes it does not execute justice and is likely to commit injustice by sentencing innocent people to death. In addition, it is said to disproportionally affect nonwhite people. Finally, it is more fiscally responsible for abolishing capital punishment, as it uses funds that could be used for education and healthcare. 

Top 5 Writing Prompts On Essays about the Death Penalty

1. Death Penalty: Do You Support or Oppose It?

Essays About Death Penalty
For a strong argumentative essay, consider the death penalty and list its pros and cons

This topic always comes first to mind when thinking of what to write. For a strong argumentative essay, consider the death penalty and list its pros and cons. Then, conclude whether or not it would be beneficial to reinstate or keep the policy. There is an abundance of sources you can gather inspiration from, including the essay examples listed above and countless other online sources.

2. How Has The Death Penalty Changed Throughout History?

People have been put to death as a punishment since the dawn of recorded history, but as morals and technology have changed, the application of the death penalty has evolved. This essay will explore how the death penalty has been used and carried out throughout history.

This essay will examine both execution methods and when capital punishment is ordered. A few points to explore in this essay include:

  • Thousands of years ago, “an eye for an eye” was the standard. How were executions carried out in ancient history?
  • The religious context of executions during the middle ages is worth exploring. When was someone burned at the stake?
  • The guillotine became a popular method of execution during the renaissance period. How does this method compare to both ancient execution methods and modern methods?
  • The most common execution methods in the modern era include the firing squad, hanging, lethal injections, gas chambers, and electrocution. How do these methods compare to older forms of execution?

3. The Status of Capital Punishment in Your Country

Choose a country, preferably your home country, and look into the death penalty status: is it being implemented or not? If you wish, you can also give a brief history of the death penalty in your chosen country and your thoughts. You do not necessarily need to write about your own country; however, picking your homeland may provide better insight. 

4. Death Penalty and Poverty

Critics of the death penalty argue that it is anti-poor, as a poor person accused of a crime punishable by death lacks the resources to hire a good lawyer to defend them adequately. For your essay, reflect on this issue and write about your thoughts. Is it inhumane for the poor? After all, poor people will not have sufficient resources to hire good lawyers, regardless of the punishment. 

5. Does The Death Penalty Serve As A Deterrent For Serious Crimes?

This is one of the biggest debates in the justice system. While the justice system has been set up to punish, it should also deter people from committing crimes. Does the death penalty do an adequate job at deterring crimes? 

This essay should lay out the evidence that shows how the death penalty either does or does not deter crime. A few points to explore in this essay include:

  • Which crimes have the death penalty as the ultimate punishment?
  • How does the murder rate compare to states that do not have the death penalty in states with the death penalty?
  • Are there confounding factors that must be taken into consideration with this comparison? How do they play a role?

6. What Are The Pros And Cons Of The Death Penalty Vs. Life Imprisonment? 

Essays about the Death Penalty: What are the pros and cons of the death penalty vs. Life imprisonment? 
A strong argumentative essay could take one side over another in this death penalty debate

This is one of the most straightforward ways to explore the death penalty. If the death penalty is to be removed from criminal cases, it must be replaced with something else. The most logical alternative is life imprisonment. 

There is no “right” answer to this question, but a strong argumentative essay could take one side over another in this death penalty debate. A few points to explore in this essay include:

  • Some people would rather be put to death instead of imprisoned in a cell for life. Should people have the right to decide which punishment they accept?
  • What is the cost of the death penalty versus imprisoning someone for life? Even though it can be expensive to imprison someone for life, remember that most death penalty cases are appealed numerous times before execution.
  • Would the death penalty be more acceptable if specific execution methods were used instead of others?

7. How Is The Death Penalty Different In Japan Vs. The USA?

Few first-world countries still use the death penalty. However, Japan and the United States are two of the biggest users of the death sentence.

This is an interesting compare and contrast essay worth exploring. In addition, this essay can explore the differences in how executions are carried out. Some of the points to explore include:

  • What are the execution methods countries use? The execution method in the United States can vary from state to state, but Japan typically uses hanging. Is this considered a cruel and unusual punishment?
  • In the United States, death row inmates know their execution date. In Japan, they do not. So which is better for the prisoner?
  • How does the public in the United States feel about the death penalty versus public opinion in Japan? Should this influence when, how, and if executions are carried out in the respective countries?

8. Why Do Some States Use The Death Penalty And Not Others?

In the United States, justice is typically administered at the state level unless a federal crime has been committed. So why do some states have the death penalty and not others?

This essay will examine which states have the death penalty and make the most use of this form of punishment as part of the legal system. A few points worth exploring in this essay include:

  • When did various states outlaw the death penalty (if they do not use it today)?
  • Which states execute the most prisoners? Some states to mention are Texas and Oklahoma.
  • Do the states that have the death penalty differ in when the death penalty is administered?
  • Is this sentence handed down by the court system or by the juries trying the individual cases in states with the death penalty?

9. What Are The Most Common Punishments Selected By Prisoners For Execution?

It might be interesting to see if certain prisoners have selected a specific execution method to make a political statement. Numerous states allow prisoners to select how they will be executed. The most common methods include lethal injections, firing squads, electric chairs, gas chambers, and hanging. 

It might be interesting to see if certain prisoners have selected a specific execution method to make a political statement. Some of the points this essay might explore include:

  • When did these different execution methods become options for execution?
  • Which execution methods are the most common in the various states that offer them?
  • Is one method considered more “humane” than others? If so, why?

10. Should The Public Be Allowed To View An Execution?

One of the topics recently discussed is whether the public should be allowed to view an execution.

There are many potential directions to go with this essay, and all of these points are worth exploring. A few topics to explore in this essay include:

  • In the past, executions were carried out in public places. There are a few countries, particularly in the Middle East, where this is still the case. So why were executions carried out in public?
  • In some situations, individuals directly involved in the case, such as the victim’s loved ones, are permitted to view the execution. Does this bring a sense of closure?
  • Should executions be carried out in private? Does this reduce transparency in the justice system?

11. Discuss The Challenges Faced By The Judicial System In Obtaining Lethal Injection Doses

Lethal injection is one of the most common modes of execution. The goal is to put the person to sleep and remove their pain. Then, a cocktail is used to stop their heart. Unfortunately, many companies have refused to provide states with the drugs needed for a lethal injection. A few points to explore include:

  • Doctors and pharmacists have said it is against the oath they took to “not harm.” Is this true? What impact does this have?
  • If someone is giving the injection without medical training, how does this impact the prisoner?
  • Have states decided to use other more “harmful” modes of execution because they can’t get what they need for the lethal injection?

12. Should The Death Penalty Be Used For Juveniles?

There are certain crimes, such as murder, where the death penalty is a possible punishment across the country. Even though minors can be tried as adults in some situations, they typically cannot be given the death penalty.

It might be interesting to see what legal experts and victims of juvenile capital crimes say about this important topic. A few points to explore include:

  • How does the brain change and evolve as someone grows?
  • Do juveniles have a higher rate of rehabilitation than adults?
  • Should the wishes of the victim’s family play a role in the final decision?

13. Does The Death Penalty Have A Racial Bias To It?

The justice system, and its unjust impact on minorities, have been a major area of research during the past few decades. It might be worth exploring if the death penalty is disproportionately used in cases involving minorities. 

It might be worth looking at numbers from Amnesty International or the Innocence Project to see what the numbers show. A strong essay might also propose ways to make justice system cases more equitable and fair. A few points worth exploring include:

  • Of the cases where the death penalty has been levied, what percentage of the cases involve a minority perpetrator?
  • Do stays of execution get granted more often in cases involving white people versus minorities?
  • Do white people get handed a sentence of life in prison without parole more often than people of minority descent?

If you’d like to learn more, our writer explains how to write an argumentative essay in this guide.

For help with your essay, check our round-up of best essay writing apps.

  • Martin is an avid writer specializing in editing and proofreading. He also enjoys literary analysis and writing about food and travel.

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