Capital punishment is the legal taking away of an individual’s life as a punishment for some mistake or crime that a person committed. Capital punishment is lawful based on the laws of the country. It dates back to centuries ago, and it is used to punish people who commit a variety of offences. In the Bible, capital punishment is prescribed for offences such as murder, witchcraft, kidnapping and other severe crimes. Today, capital punishment is a contentious issue. Human rights activists are against it because it is a legal way of committing a murder. Many countries in the world today still practice capital punishment. Others allow capital punishment, although, those found guilty are not executed. Some of the crimes that amount to capital punishment today include; murder, treason, burglary, arson, rape and larceny. However, the ethical validity of capital punishment is still subject to debate by human rights activists, jurists and civilians.
There have been reforms on the issue of capital punishment dating back to the 18th century. The first reforms were spearheaded by academics in Europe such as Voltaire, a French philosopher, Cesare Beccaria, an Italian jurist and English lawyers like Samuel Romilly and Jeremy Bentham. Reformers argue that capital punishment is inhumanly cruel, a wrong perception of deterring crimes and in some cases imposed on innocent people. Religious leaders are also against capital punishment because it is against most religious beliefs. Instead, life imprisonment is preferred by most people in place of capital punishment. Death penalties have been banned in Western Europe and Latin American nations. However, countries such as Japan, China, the United States of America and most Middle East and Asian and some African countries still maintain the death punishment as part of the law. However, it is only executed for certain crimes, and it is executed in varying frequencies.
Ethical Validity of Capital Punishment
The state has the duty to uphold the constitution, which embodies the laws of the country. If the death sentence is stipulated in the law, then it has to be implemented to the later. However, a state will be absolutely wrong to subject its citizens to death. Death sentences are totally unethical because they subject individuals to physical, mental and emotional torture between the times they are sentenced to the time they are executed. The subject’s family will also be traumatized by the fact that their loved one was murdered ‘legally’ because he/she committed a crime. Furthermore, some of the trial processes are not carried out transparently due to the fixed law processes. This may lead to some of the innocent suspects being executed unknowingly. Research has revealed that at least 10 percent of the inmates in the United States prisons were imprisoned despite being innocent. This statistic is alarming and raises questions about the legality of capital punishment. The state could be subjecting innocent individuals to death, which is unacceptable.
Validity of capital punishment
Capital punishment is still legal in countries such as the United States. There are valid reasons why this vice is allowed. Capital punishment has its merits and demerits.
Cutting down on costs
Capital punishment cases take long periods of time hence; they accrue very high judicial costs. The costs arise because of the judicial appeals. In the United States, a death sentence row can stretch to as far as 12 years and beyond. More so, the maintenance of inmates is costly since they need food and should be put under close surveillance. On this basis, a death sentence would go a long way to save the state extra costs on criminals.
Incapacitation of criminals
Death punishment is a sure way of permanently removing criminals from the society. This option ensures that the society is a safer place in the long term because criminals are permanently removed from the society. Sentences to prison are risky because the worst criminals can escape or simply serve their terms then get released. They will then become a threat to society security once more. Therefore, capital punishment is the best way to eliminate criminals.
Some of the world’s worst criminals commit severe crimes and end up in prison to serve short sentences. This is not proportional to the crimes such people committed. Execution turns out to be a real punishment for people who commit murder and other inhuman crimes. Capital punishment ensures that every criminal gets a punishment proportional to the crimes they committed.
Death penalties can be used as an effective way of deterring crimes. If the death sentence is fully enforced on those who commit severe crimes, other potential criminals would stop engaging in crime for fear of their lives. Therefore, death penalty is the best way to deter crime. However, anti-death punishment advocates argue that death sentences do not deter crime. They refer to some of the statistics in the United States, where death punishment is still in force, to prove their argument. Statistics show that, despite the death penalty, there are still many people committing capital punishments like homicides.
The aforementioned reasons are all valid and make capital punishment a very good option to maintain a crime free nation and enhance law adherence. In some countries such as Britain, public opinion indicates that capital punishment is preferred by a majority of the citizens. Despite the majority preference, there are people who are against this kind of law. Therefore, the law has to be reviewed to accommodate all opinions, bearing in mind that capital punishment involves the killing of citizens who are found guilty.
Capital punishment has many critics who have various reasons for their critic. Some of the critics argue on the negative side of the ideas posed by the proponents of the death sentence.
Risk of executing genuinely innocent people
This is the main argument posed by the anti-death sentence camp. With the statistic that a substantial percentage of the people sentenced are usually innocent, there is a real chance that some of the people sentenced to capital punishment are genuinely innocent. Furthermore, after capital punishment has been executed, it is impossible to compensate such an individual for the injustice done against them. Capital punishment also poses a danger in that a convict of murder or any other severe crime may admit having committed the crime but the suspect may not disclose the truth on whether the killing was actually murder.
It is difficult to tell the truth on what actually happened during the committing of the crime. For example, in a murder case, only the deceased and the convict know the full details of the case. This leaves the fate of the convict in the hands of defense and prosecution lawyers. The skill of the two opposing lawyers would sway the case outcome to either murder or manslaughter. Often, people get convicted of murder when they should have actually faced manslaughter charges. This is totally unfair to the convicted individuals because they would face punishment, for a crime they did not commit knowingly or not commit at all.
Effect of capital punishment on friends and family of the victim
This reason is often not considered by the prosecution and the jury when making the death penalty sentence. The convict could be a bread winner to his or her family. This factor is never considered during judgment, leaving the family of such individuals hopeless and in dilemma. Friends and family of these individuals also go through emotional and mental trauma in the period during the hearing of the case and the execution. It is difficult for any person who was close to the individual facing death execution. It sounds very inhuman and totally unfair to learn that your loved one is being murdered because they are suspected to have committed a crime. Even if the person is guilty, it is only fair not to subject them to death for their family and friends’ sake. This would prevent friends and family of the victim of a murdered person from suffering mental trauma.
The manner of administering the capital punishment
There is always concern on whether the state will administer the capital punishment in a just and human manner. In most nations, the administration of death penalty has a poor and dirty record. In the United States, a convict can be entangled in a death row for decades, awaiting the results of many appeals. Some of these appeals are filed at the tail end of the execution and are fatuous with the aim of obtaining an execution stay. There have been claims of racism in administering death sentences in the United States. Statistics show that there have been more Americans of Latin and African origin sentenced to death than the Americans of European origin. This is despite the fact that there are more prisoners of European origin who are liable to capital punishments after being convicted for murder of first degree. These same white prisoners have a very little probability of having their death sentences commuted compared to black prisoners.
The manner in which death punishment is executed matters a lot in order to ensure that humanity is maintained, and justice is done. The methods used to murder convicts vary, it is said that the convict chooses the manner in which he will be executed. This is in a way traumatizing for the convict. Choosing the way you want to be killed is inhuman and unjustly. Some of the methods involve painful procedures, which contradicts the laws of humanity. Therefore, death punishment should be abolished on the basis that the manner in which it is administered is wrong and is prone to bias such as racism. Furthermore, it should be banned because it involves inhuman and injustice on the convict. The convict would suffer in all aspect; mentally, emotionally and physically by the time the execution process is complete.
Inhuman and unjust procedures
Despite the advocates of death sentences claims that capital punishment brings about justice, it is wrong and should be abolished. First, there is no humane way of administering death to a person. However bad a crime is, the criminal still has their right to life, and this should not be disputed by any laws. Death sentences have a brutalizing impact on the society, especially young people who become interested in knowing the manner in which people are hanged. This is a similar effect experienced in the 17th century when huge crowds of people would turn up to witness people being hanged.
Laws against ethics
Capital punishment is stated in the constitution of those countries that allow it as a law. The countries uphold the law and adhere to it in all situations. Basing on the laws of these countries, it is legal to kill the individuals who commit severe crimes, which amount to death sentences. However, these laws are in conflict with the ethical requirements of humanity. Killing is an act that is ethically unacceptable in any society in the world. Therefore, why would a country allow capital punishment in the name of punishing bad criminals and deterring crime? This is the main question that should be posed by the critics of death sentences. Furthermore, death punishment does not qualify as the best punishment for criminals. First, it will not teach the convict anything since it simply takes away his or her life. Furthermore, potential criminals will not be deterred from crime. Instead, they will resort to more clever methods when committing crimes. This is clearly showed in the statistics where in America, despite the death sentence, crime cases have been on the rise, especially homicides.
In a different perspective, a death punishment does not amount to justice. If a person killed someone else, killing that person too does not amount to any kind of justice. In any case, the person that was killed by the convict would not come back to life. The convict would also not gain any lesson from the punishment he got for committing the crime. The laws should be reformed to be in line with the ethics of humanity. The law cannot state in one section that it guarantees the right to life to all citizens yet state in another that some of the citizens will be executed. Capital punishment should be reviewed to adopt a more human approach of punishing criminals. In any case, the law aims at rehabilitating the character of criminals to make them law abiding and productive individuals. A death execution on a criminal is not a rehabilitation process. Therefore, death sentences should be suspended because they are inhuman and blunt methods of punishing convicts, some of which are genuinely innocent.
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