Capital Punishment5 Essay

This essay has a total of 2370 words and 10 pages.

Capital Punishment5



How do you feel about the saying, “an eye for an eye?” Do you feel that it is a good
saying to run a nation by? Or do you agree with Gandhi who added to that statement,
“--and everyone is blind?” There have been many controversies in the history of the
United States, ranging from abortion to gun control; however, capital punishment has been
one of the most hotly contested issues in recent decades. Capital Punishment is the
execution of a criminal pursuant to a sentence of death imposed by a competent court. It
is not intended to inflict any physical pain or any torture; it is only another form of
punishment. This form of punishment is irrevocable because it removes those punished from
society permanently, instead of temporarily imprisoning them, this is the best and most
effective way to deal with criminals. The usual alternative to the death penalty is
life-long imprisonment.

Capital punishment is a method of retributive punishment as old as civilization itself.
The death penalty has been imposed throughout history for many crimes, ranging from
blasphemy and treason to petty theft and murder. Many ancient societies accepted the idea
that certain crimes deserved capital punishment. Ancient Roman and Mosaic Law endorsed
the notion of retaliation; they believed in the rule of “an eye for an eye.” Similarly,
the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, and Greeks all executed citizens for a variety of
crimes. The most famous people who were executed were Socrates (Saunders 462) and Jesus.
Only in England, during the reigns of King Canute (1016-1035; Hoyt 151) and William the
Conqueror (1066-1087; Miller 259) was the death penalty not used, although the results of
interrogation and torture were often fatal. Later, Britain reinstated the death penalty
and brought it to its American colonies. Although the death penalty was widely accepted
throughout the early United States, not everyone approved of it. In the late-eighteenth
century, opposition to the death penalty gathered enough strength to lead to important
restrictions on the use of the death penalty in several northern states, while in the
United States, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Rhode Island abandoned the practice altogether.
In 1794, Pennsylvania adopted a law to distinguish the degrees of murder and only use the
death penalty for premeditated first-degree murder. Another reform took place in 1846 in
Louisiana. This state abolished the mandatory death penalty and authorized the option of
sentencing a capital offender to life imprisonment rather than to death. After the 1830s,
public executions ceased to be demonstrated but did not completely stop until after 1936.

Throughout history, governments have been extremely inventive in devising ways to execute
people. Executions inflicted in the past are now regarded today as ghastly, barbaric, and
unthinkable and are forbidden by law almost everywhere. Common historical methods of
execution included: stoning, crucifixion, burning, breaking on the wheel, drawing and
quartering, beheading and decapitation, shooting, and hanging. These types of punishments
today are banned by the eighth amendment to the constitution (The Constitution, Amendment
8). In the United States, the death penalty is currently implemented in one of five ways:
firing squad, hanging, gas chamber, electrocution, and lethal injection. These methods of
execution compared to those of the past are not meant for torture, but meant for
punishment for the crime. For the past decades, capital punishment has been one of the
most hotly contested political issues in America. This debate is a complicated one.
Capital punishment is a legal, practical, philosophical, social, political, and moral
question. The notion of deterrence has been at the very center of the practical debate
over the question of capital punishment. Most of us assume that we execute murderers
primarily because we believe it will discourage others from becoming murderers.
Retentionists have long asserted the deterrent power of capital punishment as an obvious
fact.

The fear of death deters people from committing crimes. Still, abolitionists believe that
deterrence is little more than an assumption and a naive assumption at that.
Abolitionists claim that capital punishment does not deter murderers from killing or
killing again. They base most of their argument against deterrence on statistics. States
that use capital punishment extensively show a higher murder rate than those that have
abolished the death penalty. Also, states that have abolished the death penalty and then
reinstated it show no significant change in murder rate. They say adjacent states with
the death penalty and those without show no long-term differences in the number of murders
that occur in that state. And finally, there has been no record of change in the rate of
homicides in a given city or state following a local execution. Any possibility of
deterring a would-be murderer from killing has little effect. Most Retentionists argue
that none of the statistical evidence proves that capital punishment does not deter
potential criminals. There is absolutely no way to prove, with any certainty, how many
would-be murderers were in fact deterred form killing due to the death penalty. They
point out that the murder rate in any given state depends on many things besides whether
or not that state uses capital punishment. They cite such factors as the proportion of
urban residents in the state, the level of economic prosperity, and the social and racial
makeup of the populous. But a small minority is willing to believe in these statistics
and to abandon the deterrence argument. But they defend the death penalty base on other
arguments, relying primarily on the need to protect society from killers who are
considered high risk for killing again.

Incapacitation is another controversial aspect of the death penalty. Abolitionists say
condemning a person to death removes any possibility of rehabilitation. They are
confident in the life-sentence presenting the possibility of rehabilitating the convict;
however, rehabilitation is a myth. The state does not know how to rehabilitate people
because there are plenty of convicted murderers who kill again and again. Some of these
murderers escape and kill again or they kill while still in prison. While reading
different articles both on the internet and in magazines I came across many stories of
inmates who kill another inmate for a piece of chicken, how pathetic is this
“rehabilitation” system? The life-sentence is also a myth, because of overcrowding in
prisons early parole has released convicted murderers and they still continue to kill.
Incapacitation is not solely meant as deterrence but it is meant to maximize public safety
by removing any possibility of a convicted murderer to murder again.

The issue of execution of an innocent person is troubling to both abolitionists and
Retentionists alike. Some people are frightened of this possibility enough to be
convinced that capital punishment should be abolished. This is not true at all! The
execution of innocent people is very rare because there are many safeguards guaranteeing
protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty. There is legal assistance
provided and an automatic appeals process for persons convinced of capital crimes.
Persons under the age of eighteen, pregnant women, new mothers, or persons who have become
insane cannot be sentenced to death.

Capital punishment saves lives as well as takes them. We must accept the few risks of
wrongful deaths for the sake of defending public safety. Abolitionists say the cost of
execution has become increasingly expensive and that life sentences are more economical.
A study of the Texas Criminal System estimated the cost of appealing capital murder at
approximately $3.2 million. This high cost includes $265,640 for the trial; $294.240 for
the state appeals; $113,608 for federal appeals (over six years); and $135,875 for death
row housing. In contrast, the cost of housing a prisoner in a Texas maximum-security
prison single cell for 40 years is estimated at $535,000 (TheElectricChair.com). This is
a huge amount of taxpayer money but the public looks at it as an investment in safety
since these murderers will never kill again. Retentionists argue that these high costs
are due to the lengthy time and the high expenses result from innumerable appeals, many
over technicalities which have little or nothing to do with the question of guilt or
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