Capital punishment is the newer term for death penalty which has existed since 18th century AD and originated in Babylon. “The death penalty was also part of the Fourteenth Century B.C.’s Hittite Code; in the Seventh Century B.C.’s Draconian Code of Athens, which made death the only punishment for all crimes; and in the Fifth Century B.C.’s Roman Law of the Twelve Tablets.”(Death Penalty 2011) Over the centuries many civilizations followed this example. Until the 5th century the most common methods used were hanging, crucifixion, drowning, burning alive and beating to death.
Originally, the USA was the 13 American colonies and just like all of Britain’s colonies they were under much influence from Europe. The death penalty was implemented here to follow the trend on the continent. Just like today, this punishment differed colony from colony and was soon met with much protest.
In the recent years figures show that capital punishment is still used in many countries all over the world, however, many refrain from turning to it. “In 2008, there was a growing reluctance among those countries that do retain the death penalty to use it in practice. In 2008, only 25 out of 59 countries that retain the death penalty carried out executions.” (Amnesty International, March 2009). However, the trend is improving. In 2010 Gabon abolished the death penalty and only 23 countries actually used it, although that shows a jump from 19 in 2010.
Steps are being taken all the time to abolish or at least lessen the use of capital punishment. One of the most recent cases is as follows. “On 18 December 2008, the United Nations adopted resolution 63/168, which is a reaffirmation of its call for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty (62/149) passed in December the previous year. The resolution calls for states to freeze executions with a view to eventual abolition.” (Ethics Guide BBC 2011)
Arguments for the death penalty
The first and most obvious reason of death penalty is incapacitation of criminals. One may also call this neighborhood cleaning. This is a way to wipe our society at least someone clean of the criminals who only do harm.
Death penalty is also a way to lower the cost. It is clear to see this issue if one believes that all the money saved goes on to help those in need. Besides, capital punishment is also a way of making a life for a prisoner easy. If he is not punished in such a way he will remain in prison for the rest of his life. What is the point of that? The only goal for a person in that condition would be to find a way out and that only involves additional power and cost.
Another argument says that capital punishment provides closure to the victim’s families. However, people must learn and remember that nothing will bring their loved ones back, especially not the death of another human being.
This type of punishment, although it is cruel, does make one wonder twice before committing a crime. Comparing to a possible couple of years in prison, a possibility of a death penalty does take the thoughts up to a whole new lever.
The Japanese psychologists have put forth a very unique and curious argument. They underline that this kind of punishment is meant to show that bad things happen to those people who deserve them. This reinforces the belief that good things happen to those who do good. The existence of this punishment has a psychological effect not only on the ones who have or are only thinking of committing a crime, but also on the possible victims.
Telling a person when and where he is going to dies is for some reason criticized in this case. Let’s take a look at this from a different perspective. Why is it ok for doctors to diagnose their patients with terminal cancer and to tell them how long they have to live, but not ok to punish someone who has committed a horrible crime and is very likely to do it again?
Arguments against capital punishment
The value of human life. Who are we to put a price on it? Why are human being allowed to take the life of others? Just because they cannot fit into the system that we have created? Any person’s life cannot be destroyed by anything he does. We also must remember our right to live. Every human being is born with it and many believe that it cannot be taken away. However, it seems that our society is ready to take that step and play the role of God.
One of the dangers of this type of punishment is the punishment of the innocent. Although our crime system has come a long way and there are numerous devises which help in the investigation; there is still no way to prove in many cases whether a person really is guilty.
Retribution is not the best thing to teach to the growing up generation. We cannot show that killing is bad by killing. Not for nothing do people say treat others the way you want to be treated. Is this really the way we want people to treat us if we end up in the wrong place in the wrong time? Even as a way of making the families of those killed feel better, capital punishment should not be accepted. People cannot and should not get used to vengeance. If it is to be implemented on the highest possible level, what can we expect of people in their daily lives?
Not to mention the pure fact that killing is brutal, cruel and inhumane. Even though modern methods of death penalty are considered painless it is wrong to watch anyone die. This cannot in any way help us be better persons.
My view on this issue
I believe that death penalty should not be implemented. It is cruel and does not do anything to improve the morals of the people. It is a waste of money and force. I believe that labor camps are a lot more useful not only for the government but also for the society. This is a way to better the prisoners as well. Hard work has been seen to do miracles and even if we do not expect a person to get out of jail he may still have a goal in life other than escaping from jail.
Capital punishment is a horrible example to follow and whether we like it or not but people will follow it by their own, they will be taking the law into their own hands and we must give them no reasons to show that these kind of actions are appropriate in any way. Killing is no way to show that killing is bad.
Nevertheless, we live in an imperfect society and unfortunately capital punishment is legal. It is in many ways a political decision as it not only gives an image to the party in power but it is also a way of giving people a warning. This is a warning that will not be taken lightly and will definitely leave a mark.
1. Amnesty International. 2011. http://www.amnesty.org/en 26.08.2011
2. The Death Penalty. 2001. http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/history-death-penalty 26.08.2011
3. The pros and cons of the death penalty in the USA. http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/thoughtsUS.html 26.08.2011
4. Ethics Guide. Capital punishment. 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/capitalpunishment/ 26.08.2011