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Earlier last week on May 22, 2015, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote a column for Time in which he expressed his thoughts surrounding the death penalty. Abdul-Jabbar is an author, filmmaker, education ambassador and retired NBA player. But in addition to that, he has called on various think tanks and academic journals to integrate statistical findings that support his idea that there are unethical and costly problems associated with the death penalty.

“Some people deserve to die. They commit acts so brutal that they cannot ever be a part of society. But we can’t let our passion for revenge override our communities’ best interest.”

Within the column, Abdul-Jabbar explicates the three major problems with the death penalty which include:

  • The financial cost
  • The high number of executed individuals who are actually innocent, and
  • The nature of the system is biased based on race and socioeconomic status.

Proponents of the death penalty often state that it is a mechanism for deterring crime, costs less than life imprisonment, and is an important tool for upholding the law. While opponents often expand on the ideas expressed above. Abdul-Jabbar states that until our society can implement a death penalty system that is not as expensive, does not risk innocent human lives, and can fairly be applied to all, the death penalty has no place in our society.

“With something as irrevocable as death, we can’t have one system of justice for the privileged few and another for the rest of the country. That, more than anything, diminishes the sanctity of human life.”

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s column came about almost two weeks after the final verdict was reached in the Boston Marathon bombing case in which Dzhokar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death. For those of you who are not in tune with what’s going on in the world, or just simply do not own a television set or social media handle, Dzhokar Tsarnaev, 21, was on trial for the 2013 bombing of the Boston Marathon in which four people were killed and hundreds were wounded by two pressure-cooker bombs.

After reading this column and evaluating my own personal thoughts about the American system of justice, I was left with three questions:

  • Is Dzhokar Tsarnaev too young to be receiving the death penalty?
  • Would he have received this same sentence if he could be visually perceived as a white American male and had a basic name such as “Robert Mulch” or “John Dellmott?”
  • When will the death penalty no longer be viewed as a means of “justice?”

The United States is quick to label itself as a democratic nation, but isn’t one of the basic principles of democracy protecting human rights and emphasizing the value of every human being? As one of the most industrialized and developed nations in the world, one would think that we would have a system of ethics similar to other highly industrialized nations, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Looking for resources that will give you more insight about the death penalty? Below are some links that you might find helpful.

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