1. Background
  2. Criminal Justice

Moral and Practical Reasons to End the Death Penalty


There are many reasons to end the use of the death penalty. Executing criminals does not effectively address the roots of violence in our society. It has not been shown to effectively deter the sorts of crimes for which it is applied. It does not restore lives destroyed by acts of violence.

State-sanctioned killing violates the deeply-held beliefs of people from different religious traditions.

State-sanctioned killing violates the deeply-held beliefs of people from different religious traditions. The Friends Committee on National Legislation seeks abolition of the death penalty because we believe that state-sanctioned killing denies the sacredness of human life and violates our belief in the human capacity for change.

There are sound reasons for questioning accuracy and fairness in the application of the death penalty. The exoneration of some death row inmates has revealed instances of police and/or prosecutorial misconduct. Persuasive evidence exists that the death penalty is applied in a racially disparate manner. Juries are not always instructed about how to consider mitigating factors such as mental retardation or mental illness. DNA testing has increased public awareness of the fallibility of the criminal justice system. There is no way to prevent innocent persons from being sentenced to death. Once carried out, that sentence is irreversible.

FCNL supports a moratorium as a first step to ending the death penalty. A moratorium would give members of Congress, state legislators, and people across the U.S. time to address important question in a thoughtful, considered manner:

  • How should we, as a society, deal with individuals who commit truly heinous crimes?

  • How can we promote real healing for the families of victims, people whose lives have been torn asunder by violent crimes?

In the end, though, FCNL believes that the death penalty should be abolished. While we acknowledge the atrocity of some crimes and we empathize with the agony of victims and their families, we believe that executing people, even those whose guilt is beyond a shadow of doubt, is wrong.