Criminal activities are found in all societies. Since the inception of humankind, criminal activities have always been a threat to not only human life but also properties and general peace. There are various reasons why people engage in criminal activities. A normative approach defines crime as deviant behavior, which violates social norms.
Violent crime on its part is defined as the aspect of criminal activities that involve threats to use violence or within its course violence or force is used to accomplish the mission. Violent crime is thus divided into two different strata. The first type is the one in which the use of violence is a means towards attaining the end while the second type is where the violence is the objective of the crime. Criminal activities in the United States are characterized by high levels of homicides and gun violence.
Due to increasing levels of violent crimes lawmakers as well as lobbyists have tried to come up with suggestions for combating the increased violence. As a result, the debate on the use of the death penalty in the United States has become one of the hottest debates in recent times. As a result, the issue has come up even in the race for the presidency as candidates are asked to indicate clearly in their manifestos or platforms how they wish to combat the vice.
History of the death penalty in the United States of America
Capital punishment or the death penalty is the infliction of death on a person as a form of punishment. Capital punishment has been used in almost all societies since ancient times. Different societies and or states inflict the death penalty for various offenses. The offenses that cause one to be convicted and punished with death vary from society to society and from state to state.
Capital punishment or the death penalty is currently legally binding in 37 of the 50 states that constitute the United States of America. It is also accepted by the military as well as the federal government. Surprisingly the federal government has executed less than five people since the year 1963. However, the majority of the executions are carried out by the constituent states. The federal government restricts the execution of persons below the age of 18 years. The state of Texas has executed more people than any other state in us history after the resumption of the death penalty in 1976.
Arguments for and against the death penalty
Capital punishment or the death penalty is controversial almost in all countries. The debate has involved various government departments or personalities, prominent individuals as well as different organizations. The arguments for or against the death penalty are either based on religion, morals, emotional grounds as well as practical concerns.
Arguments in favor of the death penalty
Proponents of capital punishment argue that the death penalty helps to deter crime.
In addition, they claim that once a person is convicted and executed, then this is an ultimate guarantee to the society that those persons will never find their way back to society and commit crimes again as is the case when convicted criminals are paroled. On this issue, Karl Spence a Researcher at Texas A&M University said:
“While some [death penalty] abolitionists try to face down the results of their disastrous experiment and still argue to the contrary, the…[data] concludes that a substantial deterrent effect has been observed…In six months, more Americans are murdered than have killed by execution in this entire century…Until we begin to fight crime in earnest [by using the death penalty], every person who dies at a criminal’s hands is a victim of our inaction.”1
To support their view these advocates of capital punishment also claim that capital punishment helps lower the federal as well as the state budgets. This they claim is possible since the federal, as well as the states, will not have huge budgets to maintain high-security prisons where these convicts are usually kept until their natural deaths.
On the issue of costs, these proponents also argue that it is surprising to note that the government uses millions of shillings to take care of criminals while at the same time there are thousands of other innocent humans dying of poverty or dying as victims of the same people the government is protecting.
Execution as some proponents argue should employ the reciprocation principle. Why kill if you cannot be killed. Execution thus makes sure that a criminal is made to pay equally for the crime committed.
Arguments against capital punishment
Just as there are advocates for capital punishment, there are opponents to the debate. The opponents of the death penalty also have their arguments why it is unethical to inflict capital punishment. These include the following points.
Loss of innocent lives
Opponents of the death penalty use this point as their strongest. They argue that once an innocent person is convicted and executed there is no way on earth that that person can be compensated for what they call “miscarriage of justice”. In addition to this, the opponents claim that in cases where the deceased and the convict were the only persons at the scene of the crime then a person may be convicted of murder when he/she should have been tried for manslaughter only because the deceased is not there to give the side of the story.
Social trauma of immediate families
Opponents of the death sentence claim that it is one thing knowing that a loved one is being charged with murder but it is an entirely different case knowing that this person is going to be executed and later confirming those fears as you witness the death of these persons. They argue that it will never come a time when two wrongs will ever be equal to one right. Thus, they argue that the persons should be put in life incarceration.
Opponents of the death penalty claim that criminals are humans too. They have their feelings and emotions just as we do. Thus on humanitarian grounds, they claim that even though convicted persons have committed crimes it is important to realize that there is no need of putting them to death just because they did something wrong that maybe they will live to regret for the rest of their lives.
In addition, they claim there are no humane means of putting someone to death regardless of the circumstances.
The way forward
Matters of the death penalty are very critical. We cannot ethically and or unanimously declare that capital punishment is necessarily good or bad. Thus, it is necessary to evaluate every single issue that comes up and see its benefits and or its demerits. Thus at the moment, it is just necessary for us to evaluate every violent crime issue with remorse and come up with a general platform form for dealing with violent crime. In addition, it would be a better solution if we found or devised ways to curb instances of violent crime since the issue of adopting or not adopting the death penalty would not arise.
- Banner, Stuart. (2002). the Death Penalty: An American History. Harvard: Harvard University Press.
- Bauer, Bruce. (2006). While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within. Doubleday.
- Guernsey, Brenn. (1993). Should We Have Capital Punishment. Minnesota: Lerner Publications Company.
- Latzer, Barry. (1997). Death Penalty Cases: Leading U.S. Supreme Court Cases on Capital Punishment. Butterworth-Heinemann.
- Robertson, Diane. (2002). Tears from Heaven Voices from Hell: The Pros and Cons of the Death Penalty As Seen Through the Eyes of the Victims of Violent Crime and Death Row inmates. Writers Club Press