Death penalty is a punishment of execution which is usually administered to someone who is legally convicted of a capital crime. It is also the execution of an offender, sentenced to death after a conviction by a court of law for a criminal offence (Isenberg, 1977). It is the sentence of execution for murder and other capital crimes such as murder. The death penalty is the most severe form of capital (corporal) punishment as it requires the law enforcement officials to kill the convicted offender. There are different types of death penalty that include: lethal injection, electrocution, gas chamber, hanging and the firing squad. Lethal injection involves the injection of deadly chemical into the veins of the convicted offenders. Electrocution involves the use of electricity to kill the offender. The gas chamber is whereby the convicted offender is placed in a room filled with poisonous gases. Death by the firing squad involves the offender being shot by armed individuals. Hanging involves the suspension of a convicted offender by a noose around the neck.
Singapore is one of the country’s in the world where death penalty is legal (Amnesty International, 2000). The main method of execution in Singapore is by hanging. The procedure of hanging convicted offenders is heavily influenced by methods formerly used by Great Britain before it abolished capital punishment. Capital offences in Singapore listed on the Penal code, Cap 224 include: drug trafficking, kidnapping, murder, terrorism, unlawful discharge of firearms, gang robbery resulting in death of a person, abetting suicide of an underage person or an insane person and treason (Death Penalty worldwide, 2014). Singapore maintains a mandatory death penalty for a number of offences such as murder, terrorism and military offences. Capital offences in Singapore are heard at the high court. The offender has one chance to appeal the decision at the Court of Appeal being sentenced or convicted. If the appeal fails to go through, the President can grant clemency as he/she is the one vested with powers to do so. Individuals excluded from the death penalty include underage individuals at the time of crime, pregnant women and the mentally ill.
The question as to whether it is acceptable for states to execute people or if so under what circumstances is an issue that has been debated for centuries. The ethical problems include the general moral issues associated with punishment which are capped with the added problem of whether it is morally right to deprive a person of life (Van & Conrad, 1983). It has been argued that the death penalty lowers those claiming to seek justice to the level of those they kill. Questions have been raised on whether the death penalty leads to better societies as countries that still have it do not have lower murder rates than those that do not have it. Another important moral issue is the risk that the convicted offender could later be found to have been innocent of the crime (Henningfeld, 2006). Some of the victims of death penalty have been found to be entirely innocent on subsequent investigations and yet there is no compensation for a faulty and incompetent judicial process. Once an offender is executed, there can be no overturn in the case he/she was found innocent. Death penalty has also been found to be imposed on criminals with petty offences that could have been punished by other forms of legal action such as life imprisonment.
The proponents of death penalty cite different reasons for its support. The first argument is retribution. This is punishment that is considered morally right and fully deserved (Henningfeld, 2006). It is argued that guilty people deserve to be punished in the proportion to severity of the crime. For example, in the case of a murder, such a crime deserves death as a punishment. Many people across the world find this argument inherent with their sense of justice (Kukathas, 2008). An argument against this point is that death penalty is vengeance rather than retribution. The anticipated suffering of the offender also makes the punishment more severe. Deterrence is another argument for death penalty. Proponents of death penalty state that it prevents future murders. It is argued that the execution of capital offenders would deter other would-be capital offenders (Kukathas, 2008). Society has always used punishment as a way of discouraging would be criminals from unlawful acts. It is argued to prevent murder cases, death penalty is the most effective means of punishment as potential murderers would think twice for the fear of losing their lives.
Despite the arguments for death penalty, there are numerous arguments against it. First is the value of human life. Human life is so valuable that even the worst offenders should not be deprived of their lives. It is argued that life should be preserved at all times unless there is no good reason not to preserve it (Van & Conrad, 1983). The second reason is that each and every person has a right to live including those who commit capital offences. Capital offenders like murderers have this right and hence being sentenced to death deprives them of this fundamental right. There is the risk of executing the innocent as a result of a flawed or an incompetent justice system. This is the most common argument against the death penalty. Jurors, prosecutors or even witnesses may commit mistakes that may lead to the conviction of an innocent person. According to Amnesty International (2004), “the death penalty legitimizes the irreversible act of violence by states and will inevitably claim innocent lives. The risk of executing an innocent life can never be eliminated as long as the human justice system remains fallible”. For example, in the USA, 130 people sentenced to death have been found innocent and have been released from death row since 1973. Another reason is that retribution is wrong as it has been found to be morally flawed and problematic both in concept and practice. Death penalty has also been found to fail to deter people from capital offences. The only reason deterring people from such crimes is the likelihood of being caught or punished. Death penalty is also inhumane, cruel and degrading (Henningfeld, 2006). Methods of execution such as hanging, lethal injection and electrocution usually cause enormous suffering to the offenders.
The government of Singapore should completely abolish the death penalty. Clearly, the arguments against it outweigh those for it. Death penalty denies people the right to life and is also an inhumane practice. As Singapore’s nominated MP Laurence Lien stated the country must believe that every human life is precious, just emphasizing on how valuable life is. There has been no sufficient evidence to support the fact that it leads to deterrence. The fallible human justice system also puts innocent people at the risk of execution and yet the punishment is irreversible. Singapore’s mandatory death penalty also leaves no room mitigation as all it requires is the prosecution to prove the accused is guilty (Ong, 2014). In such a case the judge is left with no options but to pronounce a death sentence. Death penalty evidently shows that a society has given up on its people. Death penalty has also been found not to reduce certain capital offences hence no need of Singapore to continue enforcing it. It is time Singapore abolished it and come up with other effective legal methods of dealing with such crimes.
Amnesty International Report 2000: Singapore. (n.d.).
Amnesty International., & Amnesty International. (2004). Singapore, the death penalty: A hidden toll of executions. London: International Secretariat.
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Henningfeld, D. A. (2006). The death penalty: Opposing viewpoints. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press.
Isenberg, I. (1977). The Death penalty. New York: H.W. Wilson Co.
Kukathas, U. (2008). Death penalty. Detroit, MI: Greenhaven Pres
Ong, Andrea. "News | AsiaOne." News | AsiaOne. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Apr. 2014. Retrieved from
Van, . H. E., & Conrad, J. P. (1983). The death penalty: A debate. New York: Plenum Press.