Capital Punishment: Arguments For and Against

Introduction

The death penalty is a keen issue in society. The public is concerned about the expediency and the ethical background of capital punishment. There are different opinions for and against it. However, it is obvious that capital punishment is the extreme penalty, and it contradicts ethical norms. In my view, the death penalty should be prohibited. The aim of this paper is to compare and contrast the arguments for and against capital punishment presented in two essays.

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Arguments for capital punishment

The first argument for capital punishment boils down to the simple fact that all people eventually die. The adherents of this idea indicate the fallacy of the anti-capital punishment supporters by saying that the diagnosis of terminal cancer announced by the doctor can be directly compared to the pronouncement of the sentence by the judge. The type of this argument can be referred to as the one stated by the analogy. The opposite view is that the death penalty cannot be compared to the fatal diagnosis because it is pronounced purposely, and the sentenced may be absolutely healthy.

The supporters of capital punishment also give the argument of criminal incapacitation. The logic behind this argument is that the criminals, who have committed serious crimes, will be eliminated from society. It is said that the death penalty makes society much safer. The argument is said to be self-evident because the murders, rapists, and other worst criminals will never commit the crimes again. The opposite view is that life imprisonment effectively solves this problem and prevents the criminals from repeating their crimes, but it is a much more humane sentence than capital punishment.

The third reason is the high cost of keeping them imprisoned for life. Capital punishment seems to be beneficial for society as more government resources will be left to take care of the poor, the old, the children, the unemployed, and the other unprotected social layers. The counterexample is that the execution of the sentenced costs society also a lot. The results of the research show that “the cost of the death penalty in California has totaled over $4 billion since 1978” (Costs of the death penalty 2013, n.pag.).

The next argument is retribution, according to which the committed crime should be punished in an equal manner, i.e., the murder should be sentenced to the death penalty. The argument is supported by the results of the survey, which indicate the public encouragement of capital punishment as the mean of retribution.

The deterrence is the basis of one more argument presented by the supporters of the death penalty. They indicate the statistics of the number of executed in the total number of sentenced to capital punishment. It shows that the actual number of the executed is much less than the total number sentenced to the death penalty, meaning that capital punishment is aimed more at deterrence than at the factual execution of the criminals.

The last argument in support of capital punishment boils down to the statistical evidence of the direct relationship between the increase in the number of executions and the decrease in the number of crimes. The argument is supported by the statistical data and proves the effectiveness of the extreme penalty for the purpose of deterrence. However, the counterexample is provided. It is referred to the opinion of the anti-capital punishment supporters, who say that the death penalty is not deterrence.

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Arguments against the capital punishment

One of the strongest arguments against capital punishment is the fact that there is no certainty that innocent people will not be executed. Unarguably, the probability of judicial error remains. In addition, there is a difference between murder and manslaughter. The death penalty does not distinguish between these two terms. The results of the investigation revealed a 68% rate of judicial error in the trials of the sentenced to capital punishment (Coyle 2000).

One more argument against capital punishment is the sufferings of the innocent family members of the sentenced. The counterexample is the fact that the member of their family pained the family of the victim. However, society should realize that the sufferings of the more innocent people will not mitigate the pain of the family of the victim. The argument is supported by the famous proverb, “two wrongs do not make one right.” It should be noted that many family members of the victims support the prohibition of capital punishment, saying that “the death penalty process is a traumatizing experience for families, often requiring them to relive the pain and suffering of the death of their loved one for many years” (Death penalty can prolong the suffering n.d., n.pag.).

The third reason for the prohibition of capital punishment is that the decision made by the court may be biased or prejudiced. In order to prevent this, it is better to prohibit the death penalty. The argument is based on the racism tendencies in the American society, which show that the white has more chances to be commuted than the black. However, there is a counterexample showing that the opposite is true, i.e., that the white is executed more frequently than the black. This counterexample is based on statistics. The recent data shows that “more than half of the 3170 people on death row nationwide are people of color; 42% are African American” (Racial bias 2012, n.pag.).

The fourth reason boils down to the fact that those, who are sentenced to capital punishment, are also people with their own feelings. This argument is supported by the example of executing the 18-year old girls in China and Singapore for participation in drug trafficking. The counterexample is that the criminals who committed multiple murders cannot feel the pain or sympathy.

The next argument against capital punishment is the violation of ethical values and the principle of humility in particular. The sentenced to the death penalty should go through an extremely hard moral crisis while waiting for the execution. In this context, it should be mentioned that the American legislation prohibits the execution of the insane or those who have the hardest form of mental illness (Mental illness and death penalty 2013).

Finally, it is argued that capital punishment has a negative effect on the minds of people and on society as a whole. The argument is supported by the historical facts when the people gathered to watch the process of execution in the 17th and 18th centuries. In addition, such a cruel tradition still exists in some countries of the world.

Comparison between the two essays

The arguments in both essays are mostly based on either the statistical data or the real-life or historical examples. For instance, the supporters of the death penalty give the data on the percentage of actually executed in the total number of sentenced to capital punishment indicating deterrence as the major purpose of the extreme penalty. At the same time, we can see that the opponents give the figures proving the racial bias in capital punishment.

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The contrast between the two essays

The arguments for the death penalty are more focused on the idea that capital punishment is the prevention of crimes in society. According to them, it is the mean of retribution and deterrence. In contrast, the opponents of capital punishment say that this penalty is unethical not only in relation to the sentenced him/herself but rather to the members of his or her family. They base their arguments on psychological and ethical values, whereas the supporters of the death penalty argue their ideas by reference to the statistics and analogies.

Conclusion

In summary, it should be said that the arguments presented in both essays reflect the different opinions prevailing in society. Undoubtedly, each of them has its own background and logic. However, capital punishment is, obviously, the extreme penalty, and it should be replaced with life imprisonment. The strongest argument for this is that the execution of the criminal will neither reinvest the victim with life nor mitigate the pain of the members of his family.

References

Costs of the death penalty. (2013). Web.

Coyle, M. (2000). 68 Percent Error Rate Found in Death Case Study. Web.

Death penalty can prolong the suffering for victims’ families. (n.d.). Web.

Mental illness and death penalty. (2013). Web.

Racial bias. (2012). Web.

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