Description of Topic
The survival of any civilization hinges on the establishment of laws, codes of conduct, and the subsequent obeying of the same by the members of society. Due to the fact that not all members of the society are going to follow the law on their own accord, forms of Punishment for wrongs done may be used both for retribution and deterrence purposes. In the United States, capital Punishment has been used as the harshest form of retribution for society’s most vicious offenses. However, not all people believe that the death sentence is justifiable, notwithstanding the brutality of the crime that a person may have perpetrated. This paper argues the pros and cons of the death penalty and the scope of the issue.
Definition of Terms
- Capital Punishment: is the most brutal Punishment in the United States today.
Definition of Capital Punishment
What is Capital Punishment? Today capital Punishment is defined as one of the harshest Punishment ones can receive in the United States. Capital Punishment is mainly used for willful murder. In most countries, the death penalty is used for a variety of crimes that are committed. Capital Punishment
Scope of the Problem/Issue
Statistics show that in the United States, about 13,000 people have been legally executed since colonial times (http://www.religioustolerance.org/execut3.htm).
In a survey that our team conducted, we asked a group of ten people (five males and five females), all ranging from the ages of ten years old to sixty, their opinions on capital Punishment. We asked them if they considered capital Punishment to be cruel and unusual punishment. It seems as though most of the male group (excluding the ten-year-old boy) did not think that this was cruel and unusual Punishment. The females, on the other hand, all were against it and thought that it was cruel and unusual Punishment. Then we asked the group if it would be more cost-efficient to execute these inmates rather than our tax dollars, keeping them in prison.
The group unanimously voted that it would be more cost-efficient to execute. Then we asked the group, which would be the cruelest and unusual form of the death penalty, and they all said the electric chair. We then asked if it should be ok for these death row inmates to be able to keep appealing to get off. All of the females said it should be ok, and so did the ten-year-old boy. Then we asked if life in prison would be a more suitable punishment.
All the females agreed, and one male disagreed. We then asked if it is ok to put mentally ill patients to death. The entire group of males and females said no. We then asked if they thought that the death penalty would give closure to these victims’ families. The entire group voted yes. After that, we asked if they thought that death row inmates were to parole would they possibly re-offend. The entire group said it is possible. After that, we asked if they thought that capital Punishment would cut down on the overcrowded prison population. They all said yes. Then we asked the important question (is the death penalty sending the wrong message)? Meaning that the states are showing people that it is ok to execute. Four of the males said that it was not sending the wrong message and all five females said that it was.
We then asked if they believed in the eye for an eye rule. No females liked that idea, and all of the males believed in that standard. After all these questions, we asked what we feel is one of the most important questions of them all. We asked if they thought that other countries would have a more favorable image of America if we did away with the death penalty. All of the males and all of the females in the group agreed that this would make us seem weak.
Pros of Death Penalty
According to “Update: Death Penalty”, one of the unique attributes of capital Punishment is that it irrevocably protects society from repeat offenders. This is an especially significant point since convicts have been known to reenter society either as a result of parole or more dramatic happenings such as jailbreaks. The death penalty ensures that some of society’s most vicious criminals, murderers, arsons, etc. are rid of society for good. Society can, therefore, continue without fear of their undesirable elements ever coming back and causing chaos.
From an economic point of view, the cost of maintaining prisoners in the correctional facilities is fairly expensive. Opponents of the death penalty propose that in its place, life imprisonment without parole should be implemented. What this boils down to is that the prisoner will have to be maintained in the penitentiary for his entire life. This is a very costly affair, and the brunt of it is bored by the taxpayer. Capital Punishment, as executed by methods such as lethal injection, is not only radically cheaper, but it also spares the state of the resources it would have utilized to ensure that the prisoner is maintained for a lifetime.
While most of the opponents of the death penalty point to its execution being inhumane and hence torturous to the victim, a report on “lethal injection” indicates that not only is the lethal injection method (which is greatly favored by most states) almost entirely painless but the method presents a great advancement from past methods such as hanging and the use of the gas chamber. As such, capital Punishment provides a cheap and human and relatively human method of dealing with criminals.
Cons of Death Penalty
In some ways, the death penalty is also a type of murder itself. The only difference is that it is socially approved and court-ordered or legalized murder. Courts make a lot of errors in many cases. “A June 2000 study headed by James Leibman, a Columbia University law professor, concluded that “serious errors” were made in 68 percent of all death penalty cases in the prior three decades” (Cruel, but not Unusual, Judicial Mischief).
Due to this reason, most of the citizens in the US are against the imposition of capital Punishment- the death penalty. The execution of a single innocent among a thousand criminals makes the system a maligned one. Many people who are not guilty are being sentenced to death. Even if they claim that they are innocent, there is really no one to hear them. They are being hanged mercilessly. But after their death, many have been proved innocent. But this becomes no use to him and his family. The people who had imposed a crime on him and sentenced him to death cannot give his life back. They have made a mistake that can never be corrected or justified.
Generally, the death penalty is given to those who have committed murder. But the death penalty for the murderer is never a re-compensation for the victim’s life. Sometimes the victim’s family gets a lot of money from the murderer’s execution. After the murder, these people may sometimes feel guilty because they have received the money on the murder of a person. Further, the person who has been sentenced to the death penalty also has a family. No one is concerned about his family, and any court does not consider their sufferings.
“Opponents argue that high rates of error in the criminal justice system make it quite possible to execute someone who is innocent, making the state itself guilty of murder. Since 1973 at least 88 people on death row were released after evidence emerged indicating their innocence” (Death Penalty).
Is Death Penalty an Effective Justice Tool?
Retribution is among the most cited reasons among proponents of the death penalty. To them, revenge is always sweet, especially when the person who wrongs another is made to suffer the same pain. However, standards used in a mature society such as ours demands a different measured response. Proponents of the death penalty argue that emotional impulse is mainly the reason why people who have suffered either directly or indirectly under criminals support capital Punishment. However, they argue that the justice system should lead to the demonstration that life should be respected. By entrenching the death penalty as a tool of justice, they argue that the justice system stops short of telling people that “a murderer’s life is less important.” As such, they argue that even the noblest revenge motives can be interpreted by other people in society to mean that “pay-back” killing is allowed.
The Economic Implications
“The death penalty in the United States is an enormously expensive and wasteful program with no clear benefits,” concludes a statement released by the police department in 2009 (Dieter 6). Although this is an argument shared by a significant number of economic analysts, moralists argue that that capital Punishment need not be as expensive. Their argument that delayed executions are the sole reason why capital Punishment is affecting the economy.
Some of the classic examples highlighted as costing the country millions of dollars annually in clued California, which spends at least 137 million dollars annually on the death penalty, but is yet to carry an execution in more than four years.
Once convicted of a capital crime and sentenced to death, most people see this as an irrevocable sentence. Further, once one is executed, there is no chance that any amendment could be made even when the person was innocent. Yet, our justice system is full of incidences where people have been convicted wrongly. A Columbia University study, for example, found out that 66.7 percent of all capital trials had serious errors and that if the cases were to be retried, 80 percent of the defendants would receive a lesser sentence, while 7 percent would be acquitted.
Discrimination and Arbitrariness
Ideally, the death penalty should be applicable to all people who commit capital crime equally in states where it is used as a form of Capital Punishment. However, Michigan State University Death Penalty Information Centre (2002) notes that defendants accused of committing capital offenses and who cannot afford attorneys are more likely to be convicted to death. They argue that attorneys assigned to the defendants by the state are underpaid, lack the experience, and are poorly motivated. This then means that they represent the defendant poorly, which often leads to a death sentence conviction.
The Michigan State University Death Penalty Information Centre (2002) further notes that the death penalty tends to favor specific races. Notably, where the victim was white, it was more likely that the defendant would be given a death sentence as opposed to when the victim was black. In the same way, more blacks were convicted of the death penalty than white defendants. Condemning the justice system’s propensity to racist tendencies when convicting defendants who had allegedly committed capital crimes, Jesse Jackson, Sr. (1996) stated that “…death penalty had less t do with the violence of the crime than with the color of the criminal’s skin or more often, the color of the victim’s skin… women who kill are judged by different standards than men…”
Since time immemorial, the death penalty has been a contentious issue in criminal jurisprudence of the United States. Some consider the death penalty as the most extreme form of vendetta or vindictive Punishment for criminals who committed felonious crimes in this country. Most of the people are not agreeing with this because they state that it is an immoral activity of the state to kill a person even they commit aggressive crimes or even committed ruthless murders.
Through this Punishment, the law is giving the wrong message to the public that by killing the person who killed the other person, they illustrate ‘killing is immoral.’ “One argument, based in morality, commonly used against the death penalty is that it is an affront to the sanctity of human life. This is succinctly put in the bumper sticker: “We kill people to show that killing people is wrong” (The Death Penalty – A Balanced Debate).
Perhaps more than the crimes committed by persons, it is necessary to consider that by hanging the accused, the family of the victims would get their loved one back, nor could any amount of money be sufficient to comfort their loss. But at the same time, it would be a miscarriage of justice if a person were allowed to go scoot free or with a mild sentence after committing heinous crimes. There needs to be an accurate balance between the degree and extent of crime and the Punishment that needs to be meted out, excluding capital Punishment. It could be in terms of life imprisonment without parole or something equally drastic. As a matter of fact, according to this writer, life for life is not an appropriate punishment.
Personal Opinion and Critical Thinking
As we all know it, Punishment is one of the means by which society articulates its condemnation of transgression; and therefore, in line to uphold the respect for the law, it is crucial that chastisement be imposed for grave crimes. This will adequately echo the distaste felt by the greater majority of citizens. “It is a mistake to consider the objects of punishments as being a deterrent or reformative or preventive and nothing else… The truth is that some crimes are so outrageous that society insists on adequate Punishment, because the wrongdoer deserves it, irrespective of whether it is a deterrent or not.” (Televised Executions).
Accordingly, “The moral imperative to carry out the required punishment (retribution), rehabilitation, incapacitation, respect for the victim, peace of mind for the victim’s family and deterrence have all been suggested as reasons for punishment.” (Surveyed group).
Learning Outcomes, Findings, and Solutions
This paper has argued about the imposition and rebuttal of the death penalty. It does possess numerous advantages that make it a necessary tool in the justice system. It has been articulated that through the death penalty, retribution is served, and society is purged of its most vicious criminals. In addition to this, capital Punishment presents the strongest form of deterrence to would-be offenders as an example is made of those who have already been convicted.
While some people do contend that the death penalty should never be imposed on anyone, regardless of their crimes, it can be authoritatively stated from the above discussions that capital Punishment does serve a significant role in society, and as such, it’s used should be perpetuated albeit with a lot of caution so as to avoid subjecting innocent parties to this ultimate form of Punishment. The most disturbing is that innocent people have been sentenced to the death penalty. To our knowledge, the death penalty is the most expensive than life in prison. We believe that the death penalty does not prevent our society from committing more murders. Homicides/suicide rates have increased gradually in the states and regions.
Cruel, but not Unusual, Judicial Mischief. Web.
Death Penalty. Almanac of Policy Issues. 2001. Web.
Dieter, Richard C. 2009. Smart on crime: Reconsidering the death penalty in a time of economic crisis. Death penalty information center.
Jesee L. Jackson, Sr. “Legal Lynching: Racism, Injustice & Death Penalty” Marlowe & Company , 1996.
“Lethal Injection.” Issues & Controversies On File: n. pag. Issues & Controversies. Facts On File News Services. 2007. Web.
“Public Support for the Death Penalty Remains Strong (sidebar).” Issues & Controversies On File: n. pag. Issues & Controversies. Facts On File News Services. 1995. Web.
Suveyed group: Greg Jarvis 62, Brian Youngker 28, Matt Sprinzl 30, Phoenix Vance 10, Scott Cook 32, Becky Ward 28, Linnea Sprinzl 25, Ashleigh Vance 15, Cindy Jarvis 65, Mary Markison 18.
“Televised Executions.” Issues & Controversies On File: n. pag. Issues & Controversies. Facts On File News Services, 2001. Web.
The Death Penalty – A Balanced Debate. Web.
“Update: Death Penalty.” Issues & Controversies On File: n. pag. Issues & Controversies. Facts On File News Services. 2004. Web.