For my white paper, I was thinking of examining the policies of the United State concerning the death penalty. The use of the death penalty has been decreasing in frequency in the past few decades, however the US still remains the fifth highest country in the world in the number of recorded executions. While lethal injection remains the most common method of execution in the US, worldwide methods such as electrocution, hanging, shooting, and beheading are still used. I think this policy would also be interesting to examine relative to more radical countries such as China, which still has 58 laws that are punishable by death. This issue also ties in closely to the effectiveness of the US justice system considering that the death sentence leaves little room for appeals, or mistakes. Of the 200 wrongful convictions that have been discovered in the state of California, 6 were already given the death penalty before the victims innocence was uncovered.
Policies surrounding the death penalty also have racial implications. The graph below shows a historical perspective on how different races have been subjected to this punishment, and how that has changed over time. Changing racial sentiments across different geographic areas of the United States may also play into how state policies are constructed around the death penalty.
In the end, death penalty policy is dictated by its ability to deter individuals from committing heinous crime. Despite this, much research argues that states that do not institute the death penalty in fact have lower murder rates than neighboring states that do (as demonstrated in the graph below)
Overall, I think this is a controversial policy that is receiving more, and more criticisms as time goes on. Due to the implications it has for the future of our justice system, I think it would be a very interesting topic for my white paper.