The death penalty may be looming for Esteban Santiago, who killed 5 people at the Fort Lauderdale airport baggage claim. The shooting also consisted of many others wounded, leading to another atrocity in a long line of attacks that have transpired over the past couple of decades. The allegiance and curiosity of terrorist groups, most recently ISIS, have led to the radicalization of many.
Although the draw towards extremism has a complicated past, the use of the death penalty is a tricky situation. Santiago’s charge was the act of violence at an international airport resulting in death. His attack was egregious and deserves a just punishment, but the death penalty has been used far too often in unnecessary cases for the wrongfully convicted and otherwise; most notably, because of its altogether inhumane nature.
“The death penalty is ineffective as a deterrent, and the appeals process is expensive and cruel to the surviving family members.”
A recent study has shown that up to 37 percent of American adults oppose the death penalty. Although this number is not in the majority, it shows a large portion of the population who understands the problematic nature of such institutionalized policy. Additionally, studies have shown that almost five percent of those sentenced to death are wrongfully convicted in the first place.
This sets a terrible precedent about death penalty usage in the United States. When approximately five percent of your death row inmates shouldn’t even be in jail, it is time to reevaluate your current institutional structure. Seeing as how our prison system has a history of leaning on minority groups, it is even more imperative for our judicial system to fall away from the death penalty as it disproportionately affects the few. To label ourselves as a free and equal country requires our institutional policies to provide as such.
“Imposition of the death penalty is arbitrary and capricious. Decision of who will live and who will die for his crime turns less on the nature of the offense and the incorrigibility of the offender and more on inappropriate and indefensible considerations: the political and personal inclinations of prosecutors; the defendant’s wealth, race and intellect; the race and economic status of the victim; the quality of the defendant’s counsel; and the resources allocated to defense lawyers.”
Esteban Santiago has had a history of mental health issues and erratic behavior some have contributed to his time in Iraq with the United States military. As a separate issue, some of these incidences could be curbed through better care for these citizens. Care for those who have fought for the country has been a contentious topic as the statistics of suicide and violent outbursts continue to mount for these individuals. As our military industrial complex continues as part of the American ethos and healthcare is avoided, these types of unfortunate events will continue.
Santiago’s actions at Fort Lauderdale should not be taken lightly; however, our use of the death penalty, infrequent as it may be, needs to be revised because of the many we destroy under false pretense. Events like the one in Florida cannot be excused. We have seen the death penalty bandied about for Dylan Roof and Dzokhar Tsarnaev, but the American judicial system should not create an environment of death in regards to those who commit crimes.
Removing these type of people from the community for life creates the same space of safety as does death to an individual. Tsarnaev, Roof, and Santiago would still no longer have the ability to hurt others in the community merely through life in prison for their obvious crimes, but others would be granted the privilege of being released for the things they have never done. It is important that the death penalty is no longer a mainstay in the American society.
[Featured Image by Lynne Sladky/AP Images]