The Death Penalty Should Not Be Abolished
It comes to no surprise that the issue of the death penalty continues to remain in social forums and even in legislative debates as the punishment continues to reign in several parts of the globe. Debates would often range from the alternative punishments that would not constitute to killing to the idea that criminals do not deserve such death. Of course, supporters to pushing for the death penalty refuted these debates as the mentality goes that if criminals of high profile are punished to their death; others would not try to commit acts to protect their life. However, criminals are becoming crafty and opponents see the continuation of capital punishment has lost its purpose. While this indeed may be the case nowadays, capital punishment through the death penalty should not be abolished as it serves as a powerful deterrent in circumventing the increase chances of capital crimes on being committed, as well as the assurance to victims and their families that they would feel safe upon administering such punishment to criminals found guilty of their crimes.
According to Walker and Bix (2008) capital punishment has undertaken various forms since the early civilizations – torture, burnt in the stake, guillotine or thrown overboard at sea –. However, some thoughts of removing capital punishment, especially death penalty, had also taken some. Capital punishment is mostly done to criminals who have committed severe crimes or capital crimes. It is most often that crimes such as rape, murder, treason, drug and human trafficking and denouncement of religion are already acts that can constitute to the death penalty. In the United States, death penalty had been enforced until 1960 when the US Supreme Court started revising the Constitution’s Fifth, Eight and Fourteenth Amendments. Opponents to capital punishment have often cited that it is unconstitutional, given the decisions done to defendants in terms of their physical, mental, and social status. In the United States, for example, the three known cases in 1972- Furman v. Georgia, Jackson v. Georgia and Branch v. Texas – showcased the irregularities in deciding if a defendant is to be punished through the death penalty. When the Supreme Court reviewed all three cases, each case referred to defendants accused of capital crimes. The Furman v. Georgia case’s defendant is charged with murder while the two other cases involved rape charges. In the first case, it had been seen that Furman was indeed responsible for the death of one of the Georgian residents he intentionally or unintentionally killed. In all three cases, all defendants were charged to death and ironically enough, all of them were black, illiterate, and poor. For the Branch v. Texas case, the defendant had been declared mentally deficient. These three examples, supporters to abolishment concur, showcases that judges tend to showcase bias over putting up the charges to the death penalty.
Supporters to abolish the death penalty or capital punishment also see it as an ineffective way to stop and deter crime. Supporters of abolishment have expressed concern with the fact that judges could be biased with their decision in carrying out their decisions. They suggest that there are better means to punish criminals and offenders and at the same time, protect the society. . Kronenwetter (2001) argued that there is little evidence to showcase that death penalty does deter crime and convince criminals to forgo their activities. In 1804, Sir James Stephen noted that death penalty’s capacity to deter crime is questionable as it is difficult to prove. It is also argued by abolitionist to death penalty that murderers or criminals do not think rationally enough that would stop themselves from their crime despite the penalty. Most crimes nowadays are also done through the bout of emotions or feelings such as passion, rage, frustration, or fear. This prevents criminals from understanding the gravity of their crime. In recent studies, US states who use death penalty – Texas, Florida, Georgia, and Virginia – all have high cases of murder rates despite the punishment. Texas alone had executed murderers for every 6,385 residents. Florida has one per 9,952, Georgia had one per 8,997, and 11,249 residents per one murder in Virginia . Siegel (2009) noted that death penalty is also considered morally wrong by religions and ethics as opponents to death penalty have argued that “social vengeance by death is a primitive way of revenge, which stands in the way of moral progress”. The Catholic Church had condemned capital punishment despite the other religious leaders acceptance to the policy.
However, supporters to continuing capital punishment or the death penalty have stressed out that capital punishment can benefit society and at the same time, foster safety for the people. Siegel (2009) noted that death penalty is actually morally correct. In the United States, for example, while the Constitution stated that “cruel and unusual punishments” is forbidden, that does not constitute also to death penalty. Capital punishment was widely used by the time the Constitution was drafted by the founding fathers. The founding fathers themselves intended to allow states the power to use death penalty. Although it may be cruel enough for those who will be facing it, it was not an unusual recourse for punishment. Supporters of death penalty also see that death penalty is just punishment as it is proportional to the crime committed by the criminals. Since the criminal justice system enables justices and law enforcers to justify the punishments that could be given to every criminal, it should be seen fair that the most serious punishments would be sanctioned to those who have committed the gravest crimes. While some would argue that it is morally inappropriate to sentence someone to death despite the crimes he has committed, it can be refuted that one should not forget the treatment done to the victim before claiming the punishment was done out of pretense.
Another argument used by supporters to vouch for death penalty is the fact that it showcases the will of the people regarding how punishments must be done to society’s worst offenders. Studies have been done, such as that of Alexis Durham, that majority of the public or 95% would call for death penalty for the criminal if the said criminal had committed the most heinous crime in the book. The public, according to the Durham study, also note that if criminals take the lives of innocent people, they forfeit their lives once they are taken by law enforcers. It is also believed by the majority of the public that death penalty is capable of administering control and less costly than life imprisonment. Some would even support death penalty given the crime that the criminal has committed. There is also the unlikely chance of error when death penalty is administered. Supporters firmly argue that the law itself assures criminals that they will not be easily executed upon given just trial and the fact that they cannot be judged based with bias. While there have been chances that capital punishment had been given to innocent people in the past, the current system now makes it impossible to execute the innocent. In the United States, federal courts have the just order to scrutinize all death penalty charges to ensure that the defendant is truly guilty and deserves the punishment given.
Finally, capital punishment through the death penalty is capable of deterring criminals and also providing victims the sense of justice and retribution, fostering the feeling of safety. According to Clear, Cole and Reisig (2008) proponents to the death penalty ensures that the punishment becomes a powerful deterrent to stop criminals from committing violent crimes. In addition to this, death penalty’s retention in any given country is crucial to ensuring safety as levels of committed capital crimes continues to increase each month. They also argue that giving a criminal just a life sentence for their capital crimes, especially if the criminal committed murder or rape, this diminishes the victim’s self-worth. Families would argue that their family or friend died or got harassed without reason. Live victims can also foster feelings of isolation, fear and even self-pity as they may see themselves tarnished and violated. The arguments have also been supported by the argument that there is still a possibility that the offender could still instill fear to the victim even while in incarceration and once he is out through parole. Siegel adds that victims and families tend to experience justice and alleviation from the psychological trauma induced by crimes done to their families especially when the criminal is sentenced to death . It is also noted by scholars such as Walter Berns and Joseph Bessette that the death penalty itself is done in an arbitrary and capricious manner since the time of the Furman case, allowing the criminal justice system of any nation to filter criminals and reserve the punishment to the worst criminals .
Abolishment of the death penalty or capital punishment entirely may indeed stress moral sentiments regarding life and the controversies as to how it is given to criminals and effectiveness. It may also be true that there are instances that the death penalty’s methods of killing can be unethical, or unacceptable to the conservatives. However, one must stop and think: why would others see it right to continue with the death penalty given the arguments presented by opponents? Is it just because of the constitution? A moral obligation stated by religion? In a personal perspective, death penalty may have its flaws, especially in how it is done and the arguments that contradict its use. Once one looks further, however, it could be seen that people call for death penalty because it would make them feel safe from the people who have done such morally inacceptable crimes to others. It is also a given that if a person hears a criminal commit something heinous to another, may it be a family member, friend or others, the person can call for the return or the administering of death penalty to the criminal to reinforce justice.
Clear, T., Cole, G., & Reisig, M. (2008). American Corrections. Belmont: Thomson Higher Education.
Kronenwetter, M. (2001). Capital Punishment: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
Siegel, L. (2009). Introduction to Criminal Justice. Belmont: Cengage Learning.
Walker, I., & Bix, B. (2008). The Death Penalty. Edina: ABDO Publishing Company.