Should Capital Punishment be allowed?
Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, refers to the legal process that result to a felon who commits heinous crimes being sentenced to death by the state judicial authorities to pay for the wrongdoings that are otherwise considered extreme. The actual act of killing the individual is called execution, while the judicial decree that allows for the individual to be punished this way is called the death sentence. Capital punishment has existed in nearly all societies since time immemorial, whereby it served to punish perpetrators of serious crimes and those who revolted against the authorities. In the contemporary world, most societies that still use Capital Punishment reserve it for crimes such as treason, espionage and murder. During the past, especially the dark ages, sodomy, rape, adultery and incest were considered serious offences and carried the death penalty. Brutal ways were used to end the lives of those sentenced to death and these included: boiling the criminal alive inside a large cauldron filled with either oil or water, burying alive, beheading using the guillotine, burning the offenders while they were alive and crucifixion just to mention a few. In this modern day, such crude methods are no longer applied. Historically, Australia featured relentlessly, as far as capital punishment is concerned. Currently, capital punishment is not allowed in the Nation. The last time for a man to face a hangman was in the year 1984. Even before the execution, various states had long abolished capital punishment. Most of crimes that were previously subject to capital punishment are now treated with sentences to life imprisonment. Nevertheless, the use of Capital Punishment remains one of the most debatable subjects with proponents citing solid arguments for its use, while opponents similarly postulate solid arguments against this type of punishment. The paper will dwell on arguments for and against Capital Punishment.
First, opponents cite that human life is valuable and authorities that are run by humans do not have the right to sentence fellow humans to death even in cases where they have performed the most heinous crimes. Those opposing the punishment believe that the offender’s life has to prevail over his or her bad conduct that may warrant a death penalty (Phil, 2012). Secondly opponents argue that every human being has an alienable right to life. Sentencing a person to death even if he or she has committed murder violates the God given right to life of that person (Goldstein, 2005; 324). This argument closely resembles the first one but it is argued from the perspective of human right groups. Based on human rights perspective, every human being is entitled to fundamental privileges such as right to life, and that administering capital punishment amounts to worst human rights violation. This is because the right to life is the most fundamental (BBC, 2012). Thirdly, abolitionists insist that retribution is nothing other than revenge, which should not be condoned. To the abolitions, two wrongs in retributions do not necessarily add to a right. Additionally, according to abolitionists, capital punishment may entail wrongful execution, which would see innocently convicted people executed. They have often given the example that, in 25 states, between 1973 and 2005, as significant as 123 were relieved from death row when courts declared them innocent (Rita, 2007; 66). As if not enough, abolitionists argue that capital punishment is likely to be a subject of disproportionate minority representations based on element such as race, gender and economic status. They argue that, for instance, the fact that African Americans account for only 12 percent of the total population have constituted 41 percent of death row inmates and have constituted 34 percent of the number of people executed since 1976.
However, there are convincing reasons why capital punishment should be allowed. First, on the basis of retribution, capital punishment is morally justified when applied to crimes entailing murder, especially with elements of aggravation such as multiple homicide, torture murder and child murder, as well as mass killing incidents such as genocide or terrorism. Gertrude (1972) contends that failing to administer capital punishment penalty in such cases is what may be particularly unjust. In order to ensure fairness, the punishment must be as painful as proportional to the crime. It would be unjustified to let heinous crime offender live, leave alone incarcerating them. Secondly, capital punishment is necessary because it deters crimes. It is arguable that the best way to deal with crimes is prevent their occurrence, and this is achievable through deterrence. Indeed, various groups have inclined on the perspectives that the best appropriate punishment is that which deters further criminal activities. In particular, “punishment serves as an example for other people to learn and desist from committing crimes” (Rita, 2007; 56). For instance, a terrorist who watches an ally being hanged learns a lesson; hence desists from committing the heinous crime. It is argued that for every execution, as significant as five lives are saved, indicating that execution correlates negatively with crime deterrence, that is as more offenders are executed, lesser heinous crimes are reported. Death penalties had deterrent effects in the countries that executed more than nine people as from1977 to1996 implying that deterrence does not come with a few execution programs (Shepherd, 2004; 8). In this regard, there is even the need to increase the number of execution to achieve desirable results.
Thirdly, death penalty should be enforced even if the deterrent effects are uncertain to avoid a repeat of crimes by the same criminals. If societies execute serious crime offender such as murderers, and there happens that deterrent effects are non-existent, the fact remains that the society would have avoided additional murder cases committed by the very criminals (Bazemore, 2001; 25). Additionally, capital punishment could serve as an effective prosecution tool. The threat of death compels defendants to enter the deals of pleas for life without paroles or life with a minimum of 30 years. Prosecutors, courts and complainants may decide to spare criminals from execution in exchange for cooperation with the police in searching for still missing persons (Kronenwetter, 2001; 9). In addition, it is cheaper to sentence criminals to capital punishment than keeping them in prisons. Funds allocated for maintaining the convicts could be allocated for other purposes such as helping the needy.
In conclusion, it is worth siding with the view that capital punishment is justified. What is particularly appealing about capital punishment is that it is justified based on the principle of retribution. There can be no means of serving justice other than based on the retribution. For instance, a man who steals a car should be asked to pay back the car. Undoubtedly, it would be unfair to have the thief of the car punished with a fine of twenty dollars. In the same way, those who murder should be murdered. Those who kill other by the gun should be shot using the same gun. This should also be applicable for other types of crimes. Besides, it also agreeable that capital punishment is morally justified when applied for crimes entailing murder, especially with elements of aggravation such as multiple homicides, torture murder and child murder, as well as mass killing incidents such as genocide or terrorism. It also deters crimes, considering that the criminals weigh the consequences of crimes. Thirdly, it prevents additional losses of lives, such as through murder by the same criminals. It is also economical to sentence criminals to capital punishment since incarcerating them would mean a significant portion of tax payers’ money will be set aside for their up keep.
Bazemore, G. (2001). Restorative community justice: repairing harm and transforming communities. Cincinnati, US: Anderson Publishing.
BBC. (2012). Arguments against capital punishment. Ethics Guide. Retrieved on November 13, 2012, from http://www.bbc.co./ethics/capitalpunishment/against_1.shtml
Gertrude, E. (1972). Philosophical Perspectives of Punishment. Albany: University of New York.
Goldstein, W. (2005). Defending the human spirits: Jewish law’s vision for moral societies. New Delhi: Feldheim Publishers.
Kronenwetter, M. (2001). Capital Punishment: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO.
Phil, B. (2012). Phil for Humanity: The Pros and Cons of Capital Punishment. Retrieved on November 13, 2012, from http://www.philforhumanity.com/Capital_Punishment.html
Rita, S. (2007). A comparative analyses of capital punishments: statute, policy, frequency, and public attitude the world over Capital punishment. Lexington Books.
Shepherd, J. (2004) Capital Punishments and Crime Deterrence. A Testimony to the Judiciary The Committee, Subcommittee on Crime, Congress, and Homeland Security.