SHOULD THE DEATH PENALTY BE ABOLISHED? 7
The Death Penalty Sentence
The principle idea behind the death penalty was to minimize the rateof capital offenses. Almost every society imposed a certain form ofcapital punishment for criminal offenses. The most common form ofexecuting this punishment was through hanging to death. The style wascommon in England. Some regimes, especially the French kingdom, usedthe guillotine. Presently, the most common forms of execution includethe firing squad (Malaysia), hanging (Saudi Arabia), and lethalinjection (USA). In the USA alone, there have been 1421 executionssince 1976 (Kramer 2014). This figure does not include the currentinmates on death row. This argumentative essay seeks to establishthe case for and against the death penalty and offer a personalperspective about the issue.
Relevance and Debate
The death penalty has been a subject for debate for quite a long timenow. In the past, around the 18th Century, the subject wasnot contentious (Haines, 1994). It was morally acceptable thatanybody who committed a criminal offense was liable for the deathpenalty. In some societies, it was common for petty food thieves toface the hangman’s noose. However, in the 20th Century,the number of people opposed to the punishment began to increase. Thegroups opened up the debate regarding the morality of the punishment.The same groups that were fighting against animal cruelty spokeagainst the punishment citing the cruelty of its execution. Theseconcerns have led to major divisions regarding the issue. Some groupsare against the punishment, while others are in support. Some peopleare indifferent about the subject and the rest claim they wouldchange their view if we had an efficient judicial system.
The issue regarding the death penalty is relevant because it affectsus all in one way or another. People have been executed in err andthe process is racially skewed (Sunstein & Vermule, 2005). Theissue is of great magnitude in that it may jeopardize the career of apolitician. My interests in this issue lie in the fact that there hasnot been a concrete solution to the issue. Both warring parties havenot come to a common ground. The issue is more serious because it hasbecome politicized. Sly politicians are using the death penalty issueto gain political mileage.
Different Perspectives regarding the Issue
Supporters of the punishment claim that it serves to uphold morality(Zeisel & Gallup, 2009). Acts of rape, murder, treason,kidnapping and torture are a sign of moral decay. If the authoritiesleft such acts to go unpunished, the whole world would fall into astate of anarchy. The penalty also holds everyone accountable for hisor her actions. The writers argue that human beings, unlike animals,have the ability to control their actions. According to Zeisel andGallup 2009), a human being is a moral element that is free and ableto control his or her destiny for the bad intents or good intentions.People who engage in criminal activities do so with the fullknowledge of the consequences. It would therefore be wrong to letthem go scot-free, for the actions they did with full knowledge ofthe consequences of their actions and the moral implications.
The death penalty is a deterrent from murder and other capitaloffenses. As Lu and Terrence (2007) write, everybody fears death morethan anything. Even the stone- cold murders fear the same fate forthem. It is for this reason that many inmates who receive a deathsentence, fight so hard for it to be reverted to a life sentence.Since many prefer the life sentence, it implies that it is notstringent enough to deter murderers, serial killers and rapists.These individuals must be executed if that is what it takes to keepthe society safe.
The death penalty upholds the concept of retribution in the society(Haines, 1996). In line with this school of thought, society isjustly organized such that everybody receives what is due to him.Those that do good receive payment in the form of freedom while thosethat do bad get similar consequences (Kramer,2014). Although life is not fair, authorities should try touphold this concept. People who commit murder should receive theirreward by facing execution because that is what they deserve. Thepenalty functions to keep the society just and make everybodyaccountable for his or her actions.
On the other hand, pro-abolitionists argue differently. According toabolitionists, it is morally wrong to take any life- whether deservedor not. According to cook (1998), the government is not better thanthe murderers if it engages in the same acts that led to theirconviction. “Nobody or organization has the mandate to take a lifein whatever circumstances”, (p.7). Religious leaders echo hissentiments in their opinion of the death sentence. Even though it wasreligion that instituted the death penalty during the medieval times,today’s religious leaders claim that the act of giving and takinglife should be left to God.
The death penalty is not a deterrence of capital crimes. Accordingto Cook (1998), states that have maintained the punishment do notexperience lower levels of crime. Besides, states that have abolishedthe sentence have not seen an increase in the level of capitaloffenses. As the writer says, there is no tangible evidence to provethat capital punishment deters crime. Even in history when countrieshad the cruelest forms of executing the death sentence, some peoplestill committed capital offenses (Kramer,2014). The death penalty does not deter future criminals fromcommitting capital offenses.
The death penalty is irrevocable and therefore incapable ofcorrecting mistakes during the passing of judgment. According to Luand Terrence (2007), 87 people have been rescued from death rowbecause the judiciary found in time that they were innocent. The 87people would have faced the penalty had the new evidence not poppedup. The question of how many innocents have been mistakenly executedcannot go unasked. The judiciary is not 100% efficient and thereforemistakes are bound to happen.
Most of the death penalties are biased on the basis of race, gender,and the socio- economic class (Lu & Terrence, 2007). Researchshows that Hispanics and African Americans have a higher probabilityof receiving the death penalty than any other Americans. The sameapplies to rich people. The chances of a rich person walking freefrom a murder trial are quite high when compared to those of a poorsuspect. The rich can also higher good defense attorneys to arguetheir case. Past research has also proven that the skills andexperience of a defense attorney greatly contribute to the outcome ofa murder trial (Kramer, 2014). Murdererswith enough money to hire a good defense attorney are likely to walkfree or receive a lenient sentence.
The death penalty should be abolished because it is cruel andimmoral. As the Cliché goes, two wrongs do not make a right. It iswrong to commit a capital offense the same way it is wrong for thegovernment to take away a life that it did not commit in the firststance. The government has no moral authority to take away the lifeof a human being or any creature for that matter. Since theauthorities are a moral institution, their actions should be betterthan those of the convicted criminals.
The death penalty is a violation of a basic human right- the rightto life. It is true that the convicted criminals have taken a life,but then they are still entitled to basic human rights in their owncapacity as human beings. When the government decides to safeguardsome rights and violate others, it sends mixed signals to thecitizens.
Until our judiciary is 100% efficient and free of bias, the deathpenalty should be put on hold. Same as any other arm of thegovernment, the judiciary is susceptible to corruption. Influentialpeople in the government will never receive the life sentence. Inthis regard, it means that capital sentence is reserved for the poorand the less influential. Therefore, the death penalty does not havea place in any civilized society.
In conclusion, the debate about the death penalty rages on. The prodeath activists claim that the sentence is a deterrent to crime,enhances morality and makes everyone accountable for their ownactions. The opposing side claims that the sentence is cruel, thejudicial process is skewed, a lot of racism and classicism takecenter stage, and it depends on the skills of the defense attorney.As a personal opinion, the death penalty should be abolished in anymodern society.
Cook, K..J., (1998). Divided Passions: Public Opinions on Abortionand the Death Penalty. Boston North Eastern University Press
Haines, H. (1996). AgainstCapital Punishment: The Anti-Death Penalty Movement in America,1972-1994. New York: OxfordUniversity Press.
Kramer, M. (2014). TheEthics of Capital Punishment: A Philosophical Investigation of Eviland ItsConsequences. Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press
Lu, H., Terrance M., (2007) China’sdeathpenalty: History, Law and contemporary practices.New York: Routledge.
Sunstein, C.R., Vermeule, A., (2005).Is CapitalPunishment Morally Required? The Relevance of Life-Life Tradeoffs.Social Science Research Network:27(7).
Zeisel, H., Gallup M.A., (2009). Death penaltysentiment in the United States.Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 5(3):285-296