Death penalty, which is also known as capital punishment, is a government practice that involves execution of those found on the wrong side of the law. The practice and laws on death penalty have been in existence for quite some time and dates back to 18th century B.C. The Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon saw people get executed when found to have committed one of the twenty different crimes. Athens, through the Draconian Code of Athens, used death penalty as their only means of punishment. During these ancient times, death penalty meant dying by burning, crucifixion, strangling, drowning and even being torn apart. This paper, therefore, outlines the significant arguments for and against death penalty.
To begin with, we should all acknowledge that death penalty is still in practice in the current world. However, this practice is limited to some countries and the conditions for this penalty vary significantly among countries. Some countries are known for prescribing death penalty for those individuals with severe mental diseases. Majority of the countries that exercise death penalty on law offenders would do so for cases like war crimes, desertion or mutiny in the military. A significant number of those given the death penalty are imprisoned for several years on death rows while awaiting their day of execution.[“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
Currently, about 102 countries in the world have completely done away with death penalty as a way of punishment for any of the crimes committed. Six other countries have removed death penalty only for ordinary crimes but consider it for serious crimes like war crimes. Thirty-two countries are currently in the process of abolishing death penalty while the remaining 58 still maintain the practice. Among those countries that still hold the practice whether for all crimes or just serious crimes, 25 of them executed 1,634 people in 2015. This figure raises concerns since it is the highest number of executions in the last 25 years. For all the countries that have abolished death penalty whether totally or partially and for those who still retain the practice could be based on the following reasons.
Arguments for Death Penalty
Countries such as the United States and China are among some of the nations that still practice death penalty as a form of punishment for criminals. Other countries and states are also known to have abolished death penalty and then later reinstated it. For instance, Chad abolished death penalty completely in 2014 but reinstated it in 2015 for crimes involving terrorism. There are many reasons as to why death penalty has not been abolished by these countries despite the concerns raised by organizations such Amnesty International. To some extend, I second the decision by these countries not to abolish death penalty on various grounds.
To start with, I strongly believe that death penalty was instituted by our creator God. In Genesis chapter nine versus six, it says that anyone who leads to another shedding blood then this person’s blood shall also be shed by mine hand like he did to the other. It further explains that men were made in the image of God and so life must be respected. From my point of view, death sentence for murders is okay since even God Himself supports it. Exodus chapter 21 verse 12 further goes on to say: anyone who causes another to die shall also be killed. However, other people might claim that this is in the Old Testament, and that now we have the New Testament this has changed. In revelation, a New Testament book, chapter 13 verses 10 also says; anyone that kills with the sword shall also be killed by the sword. Apostle Paul in the book of Acts chapter 25 verses 11 sums this argument by saying that some crimes are worthy punishment by death. He say in this book that if he is found to have committed a crime worth death sentence he won’t refuse to die.[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Death penalty deters anyone wishing to engage in crime from committing the crime. There is need to continue with death penalty since it deters other murderers from committing the crime while at the same time it prevents the society from such murderers. It is also unethical to let someone who has murdered an innocent person to live. Statistics also show that crime rate is low in states that have death penalty (Muhlhausen, 2007).
It is believed that crime can be lowered by harsher treatments like death penalty among others. Basing on the general deterrence theory, it is apparent that when the risk for apprehension and punishment is increased, people will always shun away from such criminal activities. Criminals, like other members of the society, would weigh between utility (in this case their self-interest) and prices (which in this case is the constraints or punishments they may face) before embarking on any criminal activity (Muhlhausen, 2007). This can then be compared to the analogy that when prices in the real market increase, people tend to reduce their utilities or in other cases move for other less expensive commodities.
It has been confirmed through studies that death penalty, especially through the means of execution, has a significant impact on deterring crimes that result to death penalty. For instance, from 2004 to 2008, only 4 out of the 251 inmates that were executed in the US chose electrocution over lethal injection. The other 247 chose execution via lethal injection since it appeared less painful than the electric chair. This shows that, not only do this inmates fear death penalty but also care on how they are going to die (Radelet et al., 2008).
Absence of death penalty results into the increase of homicides. For instance, it is argued that the rise of homicide cases in the mid-1960s in New York could be attributed to the cessation of legal executions. It is reported that about 41 thousand people had been murdered since 1965 in New York as was opposed to those murdered in the previous twenty-three years. 1965 is known to be the year in which New York, one of the states in America, abolished death sentence (Galliher et al., 2001). What followed was disastrous than was expected. By the time death penalty was abolished, there were about 400 victims of murder. However it did not take time before this figure rose to 1500 cases of murder per year, this only took 3 three years to escalate to such levels. During this particular time, it is also estimated that more people were killed on the streets of New York as compared to those killed during the war in Vietnam. All this were attributed to the absence of death penalty by the then senator of New York Volker (Galliher et al., 2001).
Death penalty is just a punishment like other punishments for other crimes. Basing on the principles of right and wrong when it comes to humanity, we find out that individuals should be praised and rewarded for the good deeds while being condemned and punished for their wrong deeds. This therefore means that any wrong in the society should not be left unpunished. For instance, if one is found stealing he or she must be arraigned in a court of law and sentenced accordingly. The same should apply to anyone found kidnapping a child. These two scenarios demand that these particular individuals serve given terms in prison or even pay fines for their crimes. Denying these particular individuals freedom by putting them behind bars is sufficient for them to pay for their wrong doings.
However, the case with murder and other capital offences should be viewed in different perspectives. For instance, if one is accused to have been responsible of murder of a child or any member of given family, denial of freedom is not sufficient. Loss of life cannot be punished by merely restraining someone in a prison and in which they receive constant food supply, clothing and health services. It would be even more annoying to keep someone who murdered one’s close friend or family member in jail and still pay for their upkeep and accommodation through taxes. A solution to all this would therefore be execution which ends the person’s life like they did to those they murdered. Thus, other crimes like murder, war crimes and robbery with violence should be meted with harsh punishments commensurate to the crime committed; in this case, death penalty.
Arguments against Death Penalty
Through studies, death penalty has been established death penalty leads to more harm to both the individual being executed and the society. It also fails to meet the approach of investing in the solution but rather the problem. The argument presented herein is based on some of the disadvantages that more than 120 countries considered prior abolishing the death penalty. Below are some of the disadvantages associated with exercising death penalty to law offenders of a country.
Killing the murderer does not kill murder. It is apparent that dead men are not in the position of committing any crime leave alone murder. Killing one who has killed therefore does not make any sense at all in terms of correcting the wrong done. Statistics show that states that still practice death penalty have more cases of murder per year than those that have already abolished it. For instance, murder rates in death penalty state was higher by 28% and 25% than that for non-death penalty states in the year 2011 and 2015 respectively (Death Penalty Information Center, 2016). The other point of argument is that people who commit murder do not sit down and weigh the consequences of being executed as punishment. To my point of view the fear for the harsh penalty which is death could make some people afraid of but it is not significant enough to deter the majority of the society against crime.
From the above information one can clearly tell that though the perpetrators of murder are gotten rid of through execution in the death penalty states, the vice still exists. Ironically, states that have abolished death penalty and in which we expect higher cases of murder have lower murder rates per year. Among all the years from 1999 to 2015 there is not a single year that this death penalty states have recorded figures lower than the non-death sentence state in the United States of America (Death Penalty Information Center, 2016). When it comes to crime deterrence, one would even wonder if this punishment can help reduce other crimes yet it fails in reducing the capital crimes such as murder.
Death sentence is against human rights. Every human being has the right to life, a right that one gets deprived off through execution. Ending one’s life is against the universal declaration of human rights. Also, the methods used in carrying out these executions have been found out to be very inhuman something that has resulted into some of these methods being reviewed or substituted with others.
In ancient times death execution of law offenders was through crude methods such hanging, burning and even use of wild animals such as lions to devour the criminal. However, with time new methods of executions have been invented, just to kill other people. Currently, the use of lethal injection is the most used method of execution in the states that still practice it in America. Other states like Albania and Florida use both the lethal injection and electrocution. On the other hand, California and Idaho use both lethal injection or gas and firing squad, respectively.
Firing squad, electrocution, use of gas such as cyanide lethal injection are currently the most preferred methods of execution. However, these methods have been found to cause severe pain to the person being executed before he or she dies. Cyanide is known for depriving body tissues the ability to utilize oxygen, something that results into intense pain before dying. Electrocution is the most feared method by prisoners. This is attributed to the suffering it causes someone before he or she dies. Use of lethal injection is not only inhuman but also goes against medical ethics since it is involving medical personnel in killing rather than preserving life.
Death penalty has been found to be discriminatory in terms of social classes and race. Most of those executed are mostly from lower or middle social classes. For instance, cases about execution of prominent people in the society would end up becoming either life sentence or even shorter sentences. For instance, Egyptian ex-president Muhammad Morsi was given death sentence in April 2014 among many other criminals, but his sentence was overturned recently and he is now to serve a 20 year sentence in prison. It is rare for those from the lower social classes to receive such treatment.[Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
In the United States, African Americans constitute the majority of inmates on death row. For instance in 2005 out of the 37 inmates that were on death row, African Americans constituted about 54.1 % as opposed to the 43.2% by whites. This is ironical given that African Americans are minorities when it comes to the total United States population and yet they constitute the majority of prisoner on death row (Muhlhausen, 2007). From this statistics, one can easily point out signs of racial discrimination when it comes to capital charges and death penalty, however majority members of the society would dispute this.
The issue of death penalty has led to so many cases where innocent people are tried and wrongly executed for crimes not committed by then or that were committed under certain circumstances. It has been established that in 2015, most of the executions were based on uncertain guilt and to some extend disabilities. In this same year alone, of the 28 who faced death penalty about three quarters had mental problems. Some of these prisoners like Warren Hill were suffering from a serious brain impairment condition which had even been confirmed by state doctors. Yet he was killed without considerations. Andrew Brannan was also among those that faced death penalty despite confirmation of mental illnesses resulting from post-traumatic stress syndrome (Death Penalty Information Center, 2016).
Some people have been falsely accused and even sentenced to face death penalties only for their cases to be overruled while on death row in light of new evidence. From 1973, more than 150 people were exonerated. The average number of years from the time of this sentence to exoneration stands at 11.3 years something that means although there is justice after all, it is always too long (Death Penalty Information Center, 2016). Recent cases of exoneration are those of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown who were arrested in 1984 and had to serve for thirty years before being exonerated (Death Penalty Information Center, 2016).
In conclusion t is clear that there are many limitations as compared to advantages of death penalty. On would therefore advocate for the abolishment of death penalty as it is inhuman, has no impact on deterring crime and lastly because it is something of the past, of which the current civilized society does not need.
Death Penalty Information Center. (2016). Deterrence: States Without the Death Penalty Have Had Consistently Lower Murder Rates. Death Penalty Information Center.
Galliher, J. M., & Galliher, J. F. (2001). A” commonsense” theory of deterrence and the” ideology” of science: The New York State death penalty debate. The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1973-), 92(1/2), 307-334.
Death Penalty Information Center. (2016).Innocence: List of Those Freed From Death Row.Death Penalty Information Center.
Muhlhausen, D. B. (2007, August 28). The Death Penalty Deters Crime and Saves Lives. Retrieved November 17, 2016, from
Death Penalty Information Center. (2016). News. Death Penalty Information Center.
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Radelet, M. L., & Lacock, T. L. (2008). Do Executions Lower Homicide Rates: The Views of Leading Criminologists’. J. Crim. L. & Criminology, 99, 489.