Capital punishment has been used by many countries since time immemorial to punish people and bring justice in society. Death penalty as a form of punishment continues to elicit different opinions among many groups of people with the punishment receiving an almost equal measure of support and condemnation. The death penalty has been introduced in several states in the United States and whether this has succeeded in reducing crime is a debatable issue. Capital punishment has not been effective in reducing crime. The death penalty does not deter others from committing murder. The rates of homicides are consistently higher in states and regions that practice death penalty as compared to those that don’t have
Data from the US on death penalty show that its use has tremendously increased in the last three decades. Extensive studies on capital punishment have not found any irrefutable evidence that the practice has a deterrence effect (Donohue, 240; Gross, 22). The studies further demonstrated that the imposition of capital punishment actually serves to enhance murder. Comparing the homicides rates in countries with the death penalty and those in countries without shows that some that have capital punishment have high homicides, while in others, the rates are low, and vice versa. Therefore, the argument here is that there exist no correlation between the rates of homicides and capital punishment laws. A good example is the ruling in the US by the federal courts which led to a suspension of the death penalty for a period of fives from 1972 (Scheb, et al, 336). This period witnessed an increase in the rates of homicides. Even though the rates decreased after the reinstatement of capital punishment, this was only for a short time because the temporary decrease was followed two to three years later by high homicides rates ever recorded in the US. Within the last 30 years, the number of executions in the US increased from zero to almost sixty. However, the rate there was no corresponding decrease in the rates of homicides.
Therefore, this just shows how the death penalty has little deterrence value when it comes to reducing crimes. Additionally, prisons have been cited as dangerous places with some institutions having very high rates of violent crimes and homicides when compared to the outside world. Many people who have been convicted of serious crimes that are high profile in nature have been murdered in prison. Thus, if chances of being murdered in prison or violently assaulted do not deter people from engaging in serious crimes, then capital punishment probably won’t either. Data on homicides among states in the US points to the need to rethink the death penalty laws (Haney, 122). According to the findings, Texas, which is one the states where the death penalty is strictly enforced had an average homicide rate of 6.7 people for every 100,000 people, compared to the national average of 6.2 (123). It therefore shows that despite Texas holding the dubious distinction of having executed the highest number of people and also the highest on death row, many homicides continue to be committed in the state when compared to the national average.
Besides, laws on death penalty are ineffective in reducing homicides. Most of these laws were put in place are for political expediency and their practical purpose is limited. In cases, where the laws have been changed or removed, there has never been witnessed change in the rates of capital crimes committed. It is also important that capital punishment be viewed from two perspectives; those, who commit crime on the spur of the moment and those who do as a result of premeditation. For the first group, they did not plan to kill and therefore the killing would still have taken place even if they knew that death penalty exists. As for those who deliberately plan to commit murder, death penalty has a little deterrence on them since most of them had prior plan to avoid being caught (Scheb et al, 339). There are also others who will kill if given an opportunity and this applies to serial killers. Even though death penalty can bring a stop to the killings, the same can be said of life imprisonment without a possibility of ever being released will achieve the same goal and thus there is no need of a death penalty.
Another reason why capital punishment should be done away with is cases where innocent people are executed. There have been numerous cases whereby innocent people have been executed after being wrongly convicted for crimes they never committed. Thus life imprisonment is the only way that can ensure that a person is protected from harming others, and also given an opportunity to prove their innocence even after being incarcerated for long.
The death penalty also comes with significant economic costs. Studies in the United States costs related to the death penalty are far much higher than those incurred in life sentences. There are high costs in terms of money time incurred during each stage of the death penalty; from selection of the jury, the numerous and the appeal processes
The death penalty continues to be used by many countries as a way of deterring homicide crimes. However, its effectiveness has come under question given the prevailing studies and experience which indicate that it has not been an effective method. As much as heinous crimes continue to be committed, coming up with other methods of deterrence is important to ensure that the issues are addressed.
Donohue, John Estimating the Impact of the Death Penalty on Murder. American Law and economics Review. Vol11 (2) 240-30(2009)
Gross, Samuel R. The romance of revenge: capital punishment in America: 13 Studies in Law,Politics, and Society. Vol 71, 21-32 (1993) Scheb, John, Lyons William & Wagers, Kristine. Pace, prosecutors and juries: The death Penalty in Tennessee. Justice sytem Journal. Vol 29, 3 pg. 337.
Haney, Craig and Logan, Deana Dorman: Broken promise: the Supreme Court's response to social science research on capital punishment. Journal of Social Issues. Vol, 75, 121-123, (1994)