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My Sociological Perspective of the Process of Capital Punishment in the United States of America

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Student: SRinAub

Prior to taking the Principles of Sociology class that I am writing this paper for, I had not thought much on how things in our society happened. This includes the use of capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, in the United States. Prior to doing research on this paper, and taking this class the extent of my knowledge and understanding of the topic is what I have seen in movies or on TV. As a young adult of our society I decided first to speak with members of my primary group, in particular my family members. At 19 years of age my family does not fit into the typical mold of most American families. I have a brother and sister, but they are both older than I am by about 15 to 20 years, so even they have a different perspective on certain issues that differ from many of the people of my own age group. I also chose to speak with my grandparents, who are now in their 80s, and my parents who are divorced. I can say out of these six people the person that has guided and influenced my understanding of society is and has been my father for many years. For most of my life I have lived with just my dad who was always taught me to look at the world with understanding of the many differences that exist in our society. When speaking about others he would talk about the issues that might be affecting those people in the choices they made in their lives. I found when talking with members of my family that their thoughts and belief in capital punishment had a direct correlation with their age. My brother and sister being both older than I am had similar beliefs and thoughts of the use of capital punishment in our society. Both my mom and my dad, in my opinion, seemed to have a more thorough understanding of the topic, seemed to be a little more accepting of this form of punishment than my brother and sister did. This generational difference in societal values was even more evident when speaking to my grandparents. My grandparents whose life experiences were very different, and seemed to be much harsher, has led them to be much more supportive and accepting of capital punishment. When speaking with my dad he acknowledged that at different stages in his own life his belief in this form punishment was different at different ages. Sociologically speaking the generational differences reflected in the discussions with my family could lead to a sociological study reflecting the change in beliefs from generation to generation. That being said, this generational aspect is not the topic that I have chosen. I mainly interviewed my family to help me understand, and guide my thoughts on this topic. I had never really thought much about a person being put to death, just assuming that if that happened it must have been necessary.

Using the sociological perspective to study this issue has led to a change in my understanding of capital punishment, and its relationship to our society. With this new understanding of the processes involved in capital punishment and its effects on our Society has led me to believe that capital punishment in the United States of America should be abolished. This change in my beliefs is not because I believe that a person should not be executed for certain crimes, but, the system we use to decide these issues, has many serious flaws. Human society has had some form of capital punishment throughout its history, and many of our cultural and religious traditions reflect this process. In our past history when life was difficult for many members of society due to such things as plagues, war, starvation, and the lack of medical care/knowledge that would lead to the deaths of family members including children. During the era of the black plague it is estimated that 25% of the Earth's population died. It seems easy to understand, that not having the knowledge to know how or why these events happened, the members of these societies were more acceptable to these harsh forms of punishment used on known or suspected criminals. But as societies evolve improving both their health and cultural standards they should also strive to improve society. In our past capital punishment was more a form of retribution that was driven more to satisfy the perceived needs of the families of the victims, and the society at large. In years past, Public executions were commonplace and people would bring their children to witness them. Within my own family I have an aunt who was born and raised in the Buddhist cultural of Sri Lanka. As a child growing up in this cultural society that is so much different than the one we live in she admits that she has witnessed public executions in the form of beheadings. Through the media in our society many think of an event such as this as being foreign or past history, my aunt however is only 45 years old. Many people, who relied on both their cultural, and religious beliefs such as an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, believed that this form of punishment was good for society including their children and helped to guide their moral beliefs towards obeying the law. In the United States through the advancement, and improvement of our society people's views have led them away from these forms of punishment.

Even though societal norms have led us away from public executions, many Americans still believe strongly that this form of punishment is justified. Many others, however, have come to believe that it is barbaric, and should be abolished. There are many issues that affect the administration of capital punishment that can be considered both pro and con in its application. Let me start by addressing some of the pro-capital punishment arguments. It needs to be understood that no way am I saying these are the only arguments for capital punishment, but they are reflective of what we hear in the media and on the Internet. Some of the pro-arguments for capital punishment in the United States are:

1. Capital punishment serves society as a deterrent to crime.

2. Families of the victims deserve justice.

3. Society is better protected by the death of these individuals.

Capital punishment serves society as a deterrent to crime

These arguments and many more issues that both support a belief in capital punishment or do not support capital punishment has many people in our society divided on this issue. Hull reports that the United States differs from some 135 countries around the world that have abolished the death penalty, in



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