For a very long time, the death penalty has been a part of human civilization. From one perspective, it might seem like a reasonable thing to do, in response to some of the crimes that are committed by individuals. The most important question raised is, do people have the right and moral permission to consciously vote on the decision to deprive someone of their life for the acts that a person has committed? Does fighting “fire with fire” or exhibiting the same behavior as the criminal justify the action of the death penalty? In the end, capital punishment might seem like the right decision, but it is not, as it is incorrectly justified and does not resolve any problems.
Death sentence has a long history and is still practiced by half of the world today. It is used more rarely, but it still exists. Usually, it is the most serious cases when such form of justice takes place. Murder, treason, drug trafficking, religious crimes, espionage, human trafficking, sexual crimes, desertion, some cases of extreme corruption are some of the crimes that are punished with a death penalty. From the perspective of the victim and their loved ones, death penalty might seem as the right thing to do. The society has also voiced an opinion that it is better to do what the criminal has deserved and avoid spending tax money on the prisoners, which can be used in much better ways. The moral question of why should someone enjoy life while they were the ones who deprived someone of that chance is at hand.
One of the problems with this sort of reasoning is that neither the victim nor their loved ones will experience real satisfaction just because the person responsible for the criminal act is put to death. Some might argue that revenge can be the needed relief but it never is. There is nothing in the world that can replace a loved person or make the atrocious criminal act disappear and get erased from the person’s memory. The modern world has seen a great change where less and less countries are permitting death penalties. This is proof that people are realizing that there are better ways to handle the situation. The fact that such a quick and easy solution can be applied does not mean that it should be. The primary and most adequate question is what if the person who has been sentenced to death is innocent.
There have been numerous cases where someone was imprisoned for life or received the death penalty but was later proven innocent. The fact that these instances did take place, made the prosecutors no better than the criminals they were supposed to be punishing. There is no way for the courts, judges and juries to undo their decisions, as people’s lives are already lost. What do the relatives of the wrongfully convicted have to think about the justice system when it cannot be trusted and has proven ineffective? This is an example of the old traditions becoming outdated and the “eye for an eye” principle becoming a useless concept. People are given brains and intellect to evolve, and putting someone to death merely reinforces the view that people are still in their development stages. There are far better options that can be administered which can be more beneficial to victims, their relatives and the society, as well as the world (Guernsey, 2009).
It is not a new concept where prisoners and criminals were given community hours for their actions. By giving employment or social work to individuals, the society and victims can actually benefit from offenders and feel some sort of satisfaction. One way to accomplish this is financial support that can be received from the employment of people convicted of a serious crime. Simply killing a person will not teach them or anyone else any lessons, whereas understanding and betterment of the self and society has been the key goal of any civilization. People are born to make mistakes and learn from them, and there is not a single person in the world who has not done something they later regretted. Then, there is a question of whether a person that committed serious crimes was sane or mentally capable to realize that what they were doing is immoral and wrong.
The single fact that someone is able to commit a criminal act and deprive someone of their life or dignity, means that they are not healthy, as there must be something wrong with their psychological make-up. In order to prevent such behavior, these individuals must go through therapy and be extensively studied, so that the criminal acts can be prevented and predicted in the future. Some people might argue that an individual, who has taken the life of someone else, does not deserve to live. Taking someone’s life is the worst thing that people are capable of and so, the same has to be done to them. This is a strong argument and it is very much understandable. It is also supported by the fact that there will be less “evil” people in the world and it will serve as an example for others who commit the same acts.
It has been shown that the death penalty acts as a significant measure of prevention in a part of the population. Other supporters of the capital punishment argue the fact of recidivism. People convicted to life in prison will come out and commit murders again. Death penalty will prevent this from happening and save numerous future victims. Even if the option of giving life in prison is taken, there is a risk that these criminals will kill someone inside the prison. The benefits of the death sentence might be viewed as strong but there are several problems with the seeming positive effect. The amount of people sentenced to death does not really prevent others from committing acts, as a lot of murders are committed in the state of affection (Walker, 2008). Majority of people do not plan and take steps before carrying out their fatal actions, as they happen to be in a situation where it becomes a spur of the moment. Their brain stops functioning normally and they cannot reason.
They will be unable to remember all the death penalty cases in that instance, so the preventative measure of previous punishment will not work. Also, the human population is so large, that there will always be people unaware of the death sentences and so, they will not be affected by the past cases of people which they have never heard about. It has also been suggested that punishment by death encourages and provokes further violence. The nation that allows capital punishment displays a moral characteristic that permits murder in the social setting. The fact that a group of civilized and intelligent people vote on taking the life of another person, shows how limited people are in their understanding of punishment (Stearman, 2007).
A higher philosophical question is raised when one considers the meaning of death and the real suffering that the person will experience for their crime. The common belief is that the person stops to exist when they die. Then it is unclear, how can a person be punished for their crime if they will not realize what they have done after their life is taken. Most religions state that a person will go to “hell” or a place of suffering where they will pay for their sins. This seems rather uncertain and at the same time, it cannot be a sufficient enough explanation for people who have suffered at the hands of the perpetrator. Either way this issue is examined, it becomes obvious that there are more humane and productive choices of punishing someone for their deeds.
The modern society has reached a level of development where a person’s mind and their reasons for actions have been closely studied. It is a well known fact that people and their perspective, as well as the view of other individuals and their lives are much affected by their past lives, upbringing and the traumatic or stressful events early in their lives. To punish someone who is morally incapable of understanding their wrongs or has been subjected to much suffering in their childhood, would mean that the public is making society a far worse place. Psychology and experiments conducted on the human mental processes have shown that people are changed by the circumstances and environment of their life. Someone who grows up in poor conditions, subjected to abuse and the strong need to survive by any means necessary will have no choice but to know nothing else except criminality and extreme measures.
So, it becomes evident that people who were themselves a victim are now being treated as criminals. The society must find better ways of dealing with the problem. One possible solution would be to perform active therapy and counseling. There are many cases when people have been shown how their actions affect the rest of society and they were able to rehabilitate. Mental and health problems have been another reason why people commit crimes that lead to death penalties. Not only is it clear that there is little evidence to subject people to such punishment, it has been proven that it costs more to the society. The trials take much longer and the resources needed to carry out such form of sentencing are much higher (Gottfried, 2002).
Capital punishment has been and still is a topic of great debate. There are those who argue that people guilty of serious crimes do not deserve to enjoy life, even in prison. There is no consolation that can be given to people who lost their loved ones and so, equal retaliation seem as preferred choice. But the fact stays true that becoming like the murderers means being no better. Human civilization has come a long way and lost many lives to executions and death sentences and this sort of practice must become a part of the past.
Gottfried, T. (2002). The death penalty: justice or legalized murder? Brookfield, United States: Twenty-First Century Books.
Guernsey, B. (2009). Death penalty: Fair solution or moral failure? Minneapolis, United States: Twenty-First Century Books.
Stearman, K. (2007). The debate about the death penalty. New York, United States: The Rosen Publishing Group.
Walker, I. (2008). The death penalty. Minnesota, United States: ABDO, 2008.