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The death penalty has been used in human societies for centuries to stop crime from spreading. It is regarded as a defense mechanism so that the society can be free from dangerous criminals. According to a recent statistic, there have been 1348 executions of the death penalty since 1976 in the US alone. On average single death penalty, case costs up to $2.4 million.
However, later on this type of punishment was regarded as a crime as well by the humanists around the world. Until this day, the legality and the authority of the death penalty has been questioned. There are two sides of the story. The first group of people is in favor of the death penalty. These people have their own arguments. They feel that by executing criminals, it serves as a lesson for the people who might think of committing a crime. It is a deterrent for future murderers and kidnappers.
Then there is the other group of people that does not support the act of killing someone. They believe that no matter how heinous the crime was, every death row criminal is still a human and no one has the right to decide until when he will live. This group of people, the Abolitionists, considers death row as an act of crime and violence. Crime cannot be condemned with crime itself. According to the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, “legalized homicide as punishment is generally inconsistent with the values it is presumed to protect and in a broader context is demeaning of the dignity of human life.”
The reason for this debate is that death penalty is irreversible. This is why the executioners need to be 100% sure that the person being executed actually deserves to be dead. Human beings may be termed as an inevitable source of error. However, when there is a life at stake, then there is no option of being wrong. The United States and other developed countries of the world pride themselves into having a just and balanced judicial system. However, now abolitionists argue that the government cannot be trusted for its fairness if it does not follow the rules that are expected of its citizens. If a citizen murders someone, then it is regarded as a crime. Nevertheless, a government approved and funded murder has no consequences and it acceptable? What sort of a message is being portrayed here by the government? How can the government expect to promote peace by practicing violence?
Arguments FOR the Death Penalty
The first and most basic argument is that it is a deterrent and prevents future murderers from committing such heinous crimes. Throughout history, societies have always used different methods of punishment to discourage future criminals from any unlawful action.
For many years, criminologists have been analyzing data of murder rates to see if the execution of death row inmates has helped the crime rate to reduce. However, the results have been inconclusive with the results always fluctuating. However, in 1973, Isaac Ehrlich proposed a new means of analysis and determined that for every death row execution; at least seven lives had been spared due to deterrence.
Secondly, death penalty is required by the society to balance the life. When a murder is committed, then the balance of life becomes unstable. By eliminating the negative force and by removing the source of the unbalance, the governments ensure that the society remains balanced. It helps the authorities to give the message to the society that any wrongdoing will not be tolerated.
In majority of religions as well, retribution has a significant value. Even though the victim cannot be brought back to life and no amount of compensation can reduce the pain of the victim’s family, yet it is important for the victim’s family to have closure. The death penalty offers them a way of closure for the dreadful crime their beloved family member experienced.
Another important argument presented by the group in favor of the death penalty is that there is no evidence in history that an innocent person has been wrongly executed. There may a slight risk but that risk is not so significant that the government needs to stop the death penalty altogether. It is the same case as if imprisoning an innocent person. However, due to a risk of that happening, do the authorities open up all the cells and let the prisoners out in case an innocent person is being wrongly accused? Technology has become so much advanced that the risk of executing an innocent person is very sleek. There are DNA testing that help the authorities determine that the person is actually guilty or not.
In light of these arguments, the Pro death penalty group wants that this form of punishment be continued in the country and be followed in all states. It will help the eliminate crime and most importantly be an appropriate form of punishment for the criminal.
Arguments AGAINST Death Penalty
Human activists have been fighting for the right of death row inmates for many years now. This ongoing debate seems to have no end. The arguments presented by the abolitionists are in their own respect right.
There is no proven record that death penalty offers deterrence to potential criminals. The conclusion of years of studies on death penalty show that it is no more of a deterrence than being sentenced to life imprisonment. There is an argument that death penalty brutalizes the society and has the opposite effect of what it is used for. Instead of offering deterrence, it increases the likelihood of more murder.
Retribution is considered as revenge. Even though no matter how much our first instinct is to hurt the person that has hurt us, we need to prove to be a mature society. The response needs to be measured. Being emotional and having the need to take revenge is not justified no matter brutal the crime may be. The government and judicial system needs to lead a better example and set higher principles of life. People need to respect life, even if it is of a murderer.
Even majority of the families of the victims also detest the use of death penalty. They feel insulted by having to live through the ordeal again and it causes more pain. They do not want to use execution as a way to make the wrong right. The notion that there should be an equal action for every crime committed is absurd. The government does not order a rapist to be raped in return. There is no law that orders kidnapper to be kidnapped. Being executed on death penalty is a disproportionate form of punishment. Most of the people being executed are not typically the worst type of offenders but rather they are those, which have the least resources. They cannot defend themselves and thus lose their case in comparison to the other lawyers and state.
Abolitionists feel that having a risk of executing someone innocent is enough reason to stop performing this type of act. As the death penalty is an irrevocable form of punishment, either there should be no risk of error or it should be banned. If the government cannot guarantee to be 100% risk free, then this form of punishment is not acceptable.
No matter how proud any government is of its judicial system, there are always flaws and loopholes. A recent study by the University of Columbia Law found out that as much as two thirds of the cases of capital trials contain errors and mistakes. So how sure can governments be while performing an execution that the person is guilty or is innocent?
As pointed out before, the death penalty is not applied fairly. The execution depends on several factors that are not limited to the defense counsel, the area in which the crime was committed and the race if the defendant and victim.
The use of death penalty to make right what has been done wrong has been used for centuries. However, it is now time to accept that it has not deterred any crime. As we can see around the world, there is no peace. Even after having executions for centuries, we hear cases of extremely heinous murders. Inadvertently, by imposing death penalty, the youth is getting the message that violence can only be controlled by violence. Death penalty is disrespectful to the human race entirely and needs to be abolished. Even though the victim has been wronged and that life was precious too, but the governments cannot keep on taking lives to justify crimes.
Death penalty can even be seen as a way to relieve the defendant from the guilt and constant sense of disgust. It seems as the easy way out. A better and cheaper way to punish them is to give them a sentence of life imprisonment. This will make their every day like hell. If they in fact are guilty, they will have to live with the guilt of killing someone. To take someone’s life is no ordinary issue. Through life imprisonment, the defendant may have to suffer through the guilt and the pain of causing death to an innocent person.
We cannot kill someone legally because there will always be a risk of that person being innocent. We need to think of the defendant’s family for a second as well. They need to be given opportunity and respect.
Banning death penalty and giving life imprisonment seems like a more humane approach. It is a more mature response that reflects the decision of a civilized and responsible society. We need to teach our children and youth to be justified and maintain human nature. In my opinion, death penalty is an unjustified way to punish a person and I am in favor of abolishing it.
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