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Capital Punishment or Death Penalty

Essay by   •  May 16, 2011  •  Term Paper  •  2,727 Words (11 Pages)  •  1,786 Views

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Capital Punishment.

Introduction

Capital punishment, which some also call the death penalty, has been around in society for hundreds of years. Ever since it began, there have been discussions as to whether it is morally right, and as to whether it actually deters criminals. Some believe that the prospect of being put to death often stops criminals from committing violent acts. Others believe exactly the opposite, stating that those that commit violent crimes are driven to do so for various reasons, and whether they have the chance of being put to death or not will not stop them from doing what they feel they must do.

Some serial killers and other violent individuals believe that they will never be caught. Others think that they are doing God's work, or they cite other 'important' reasons for the killings and violent acts that they partake in. Sometimes this is due to mental disorders, but there are other reasons that people commit acts of this nature. Regardless of these reasons, however, violent acts can and do occur and whether these people should be put to death for their crimes remains a hotly debated issue.

On one side of the debate, there are those that believe that killing is morally and ethically wrong, whether it is the killer and his victims or the government and the killer. The ethical dilemmas that are faced by this issue are not designed to be discussed here. They are important and worthy of discussion and thought, but the scope of this paper does not allow for space to debate the ethical issues that involve the death penalty as it pertains to violent individuals and their reasons for their actions.

The purpose of this paper is to leave those issues aside and determine whether there is a basis of truth in the statement that capital punishment deters violent crime. This statement is used by many who believe in the death penalty, and they argue that these criminals will not be able to do any more harm, which is certainly true, and not a question for debate. What is debatable, however, is whether the idea of the death penalty affects those that might commit violent crimes, and whether it stops them from doing so. There are many that believe this, and others that insist that there is little to no effect.

Both sides of the argument will be addressed here, so that conclusions can be drawn from the information presented that will hopefully shed some light on the debate and determine which side is correct. There is, however, seemingly much more information available that is against the death penalty than for it. It is also possible that a determination will not be able to be made due to the fact that there are so many issues and beliefs that surround each side, and statistics can be made to show many things, depending on who is utilizing them and how the numbers are manipulated. It is for this reason that statistics will not play a large role in the scope of this paper, as numbers often vary.

Argument for the Death Penalty

Those that argue for the death penalty state that, not only does it keep the person in question from committing any more violent acts, but it also serves as a lesson for those that are considering these types of acts in the future. It is not only the United States that has this problem, as many other countries are also concerned about crime rates. In some other countries there are people that feel that doing away with the death penalty offers no deterrent for those that would rape and murder innocent people for some reason, or sometimes for no real reason at all (Bayat, 1999).

It is believed that the criminal element that is aware of the death penalty will spend more time considering whether the act they are thinking of committing is worth the price that they might ultimately have to pay. The opinion is that many criminals will feel that risking their life for the violent act is not worth the price, and they will refrain from committing these kinds of crimes. Few people, even criminals, have a death wish, and it is believed that this lack of desire for their own death will keep them from causing the deaths of others. Despite opposition from those that believe the death penalty should be stopped, some statistics do show that the number of murders does rise when the death penalty is not in force, and this number falls when the death penalty is reinstated (Johansen, 1998).

Another point of this argument is that the death penalty brings closure for the victims of the families that have lost loved ones. There is apparently a satisfaction, at least for some, upon seeing these people give up their life at the hands of the government. The chapter of their lives that dealt with that person has come to an end, and they can finally feel that they can move on with their lives (Radelet & Akers, 1996). This is somewhat related to violent crime, in that there is always the possibility that survivors who have lost loved ones would consider taking their vengeance out on others because of their pain and sorrow, and this could lead to even more violent crimes. Violent criminals that are paroled also run the risk of being killed by those that know what they did and believe that they should have died. This creates more violent acts in society and more problems with how to punish these individuals. Having the death penalty for violent crimes often prevents this.

To summarize, the main point of the argument for the death penalty is that crime will go down because of the fear of punishment. This is the belief of those that advocate the death penalty for all violent crimes, and all of the information to the contrary does not appear to change this opinion.

Argument Against the Death Penalty

There are many different arguments against the death penalty, and some of these come from law enforcement. Recent polls of police chiefs in various areas of the country indicate that a large majority of them believe that the death penalty is no deterrent to violent crime. It ranks last on their lists of how they should go about reducing violent crime, and studies have shown that it is no better at reducing crime than the possibility of life in prison without any chance of parole (Cook, 1999). This is interesting, in the face of the argument that the death penalty reduces the amount of violent crimes that are committed. Studies have also shown that, contrary to the popular opinion that the death penalty brings closure, most people do not feel that watching someone else die helps them to move on in any way. Sometimes it seems to profane the name of the lost loved one by associating yet another death with it. The death of the loved one is painful enough without adding to it (Cook, 1999).

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