Death Penalty Distribution

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Institutional racism has been outlawed for more than 50 years but racism within the legal system continues unabated. Racial profiling ensures more minorities in jail and, by extension, a larger ratio is put to death. The death penalty is patently and obviously unfair to minorities. Whether or not it is cruel is not definable by law. It can only be defined by the collective social consciousness of a culture. The legal interpretation of ‘cruel and unusual’ is somewhat open to debate but in general, the term ‘cruel’ refers to brutal punishments that cause excessive pain. Most legal experts agree that punishments including bodily dismemberment or torture are undoubtedly classified as cruel. Again, terminologies are open to interpretation as evidenced by the current debate at the highest level of government involving the definition of torture. The term ‘unusual’ is commonly understood to define the equitable application of punishment for a particular offense. For example, if ten people were cited for speeding and nine of them were fined $100 but one was fined $1000, this penalty would be considered ‘unusual.’ Taken together, both ‘cruel’ and ‘unusual’ indicate that the punishment should be exacted in proportion to the offense committed. A life term in prison is an acceptable form of punishment but if it were imposed for jaywalking, this would be an unacceptable sentence because it would be considered excessive given the severity of the offense. Excessive is also open to wide interpretation in both the public and legal realm. Some would argue, for example, that imprisonment of any amount of time for ‘crimes’ such as gambling, prostitution and the possession of drugs should be interpreted as excessive, therefore ‘unusual.’ By definition, capital punishment is not unusual, legally speaking, unless one considers and acknowledges the racial bias that exists in the justice system.