Death Penalty alias Capital Punishment refers to the execution of a convicted criminal who has been sentenced to death on the ground of a capital offense. Capital offense deserving death varies from country to country in the world. In most of the countries, death penalty is awarded for the offense of espionage, murder and treason. In Islamic nations, those guilty of sexual crimes including rape, incest, sodomy and religious offense are condemned to capital punishment. There are many countries where human trafficking, drug smuggling and serious crimes of corruption are considered as punishable offense by death. History of death penalty dates back to the primitive practice of personal retribution when ancient laws allowed people to wreck vengeance by killing their offenders. There was an array of crimes listed as punishable by death. For example, in 1700 BC selling of beer and revelation of sacred burial spots were crimes deserving death. However, in present time there are many nations which abolished the capital punishment and nations where capital punishment is still in vogue have attenuated the degree of crimes deserving death. Lately, there are a lot of debates going on in favor and against death penalty. Further into the essay, I would like to highlight upon the means of execution and reasons for and against capital punishment.
Means of Execution:
In ancient times capital punishment was a bloody and violent affair with various kinds of torture inflicted on the offenders before putting them to death. Some common ways of torture and execution involved chopping off hands and feet, skinning, boiling alive in hot oil or burying alive, drawing behind a horse and quartering, crucifying and beheading. In present time, means of execution again varies from country to country. In many countries, most common ways of execution are through lethal injection, electrocution, gas chamber, firing squad and hanging. There are some middle-east countries where alongside hanging, controversial means of death penalty through stoning and beheading are practiced to date.
Reasons in favor and against Capital Punishment:
In the face of rising debates whether or not capital punishment is justified, according to one section of people the practice of capital punishment is necessary for the maintenance of peace in a society while another section of people holds the opinion that death penalty is not a fair way of penalizing criminals in a civilized society. Before reaching any conclusion about whether or not capital punishment is apt, we need to review the reasons in favor and against the capital punishment.
- Reasons Supporting Death Penalty:
One reason in favor of capital punishment is that prison is for offenders who can be rehabilitated into the society after release but criminals sentenced to three or four back to back life sentences without parole have no way of coming out of the prison alive. So there is no justification of wasting money for the imprisonment of offenders who in any way are going to languish in the jail rest of their lives.
Further, capital punishment is believed to deter future criminals from committing crimes, though there is no statistics to prove of nations with capital punishment having lower rate of crimes.
One section of people championing capital punishment believes in the justness of punishment amounting to the degree of crime. They are of the opinion that allowing criminals convicted of horrible crimes to get away with lesser degree of punishment equals to allowing of innocent people being butchered.
Another section believes that capital punishment gives some sort of closure or finality for the victim's family. The degree of atrocity in some crimes committed is so brutal that some people believe vengeance is the only option. But if we all start believing in eye for an eye treatment, then the whole world might turn blind.
According to some proponents of death penalty, capital punishment is rewarded to those convicted of a felony. Such hard-hearted criminals devoid of human emotions pose a threat to the equilibrium of a society and therefore, death is an apt punishment that will keep the society free from such sick monsters.
- Reasons against Death Penalty:
People against death penalty consider the practice inhumane, more so because it is imposed by the state. However, as what is humane varies from the perception of one person to another, it can never be concluded that death penalty is utterly inhumane because it is awarded as means of punishment to curb the rate of horrible and inhumane crimes.
Some people believe that capital punishment negates the fundamental right of a person to live and therefore it should be made unlawful. However, people in favor of capital punishment contest this view with the logic that perpetrators of murder violate their victims' right to life by murdering them and hence death penalty is the just retribution.
Some people compare the practice of capital punishment to an act of playing god. As life is a gift a god, death too should be awarded by god and not humans.
One section believes that many a time it has been seen that a person condemned to life- long imprisonment has been wrongly convicted of a crime he has not committed. Capital punishment eliminates the chance for such wrongly convicted people to prove their innocence.
According to some people, there are convicts who themselves have been victims of child abuse, domestic violence, rape or torture and perpetration of a grievous crime is an act of expression of pent-up anger for offense committed against them. Therefore, these convicts instead of being sent to the gallows should be allowed a scope for amendment.
We see that death penalty which has been in practice from immemorial time was invented in order to maintain law and order in the society. The crime death penalty is awarded for varies from one nation to another. Death penalty in recent time has become a subject for lots of heated disputes across the globe. There are many countries which have abolished the practice of death penalty entirely while there are many still where capital punishment is treated as the righteous way to punish an offender. All the section of people divided in their opinions as regard to the practice of death penalty have their own set of opinions which are valid in their own way while invalid for others. It is difficult to come to any logical conclusion whether or not death penalty should be abolished on humanitarian ground or should be retained as means of keeping the society free from dreadful criminals because perspective of looking at things vary from one to another. As euthanasia or mercy killing is regarded as just and fair for some while others view it in the light of murder, same goes for death penalty.
- The U.S. History of Capital Punishment, Random History, http://www.randomhistory.com/2009/09/19_capital-punishment.html ( 6th April,2013)
- Death Penalty Information Centre, http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/descriptions-execution-methods ( 6th April,2013)
- Top 10 Modern Methods of Execution, Listverse , http://listverse.com/2007/09/18/top-10-modern-methods-of-execution/ ( 6th April , 2013)
- Ethics Guide , BBC, http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/capitalpunishment/for_1.shtml (6th April, 2013)
- The Pros and Cons of capital punishment , PHIL for Humanity, http://www.philforhumanity.com/Capital_Punishment.html ( 6th April, 2013)
- Capital Punishment, Bible Believers(1997), http://www.biblebelievers.com/jmelton/punish.html (6th April, 2013)
- Arguments for and against capital punishment in UK, http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/thoughts.html (6th April,2013)
- William S Mcfeely, Trial and Error : Capital Punishment in US history , http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5420 (6th April,2013)
- History of Death Penalty, Pennsylvania Correction Facility, http://www.cor.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/death_penalty/17351/history/607968 (6th April, 2013)
- Top 10 gruesome methods of execution, Listverse , http://listverse.com/2007/09/12/top-10-gruesome-methods-of-execution/ (6th April, 2013)