Capital punishment

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capital punishment

Capital Punishment - History



Capital Punishment - History There have been many controversies in the history of the
United States, ranging from abortion, gun control, but capital punishment has been one of
the most contested issues in recent decades. Capital punishment is the legal infliction of
the death penalty on persons convicted of a crime. It is not intended to inflict any
physical pain or any torture; it is only another form of punishment. It is irrevocable
because it removes those punished from society forever, instead of temporarily imprisoning
them. The usual alternative to the death penalty is life-imprisonment. Capital punishment
is a method of punishment as old as civilization itself. The death penalty has been
imposed throughout history for many crimes, ranging from 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 all executed citizens for a
variety of crimes. The most famous people to be executed is Jesus. Only in England, during
the reign of William the Conqueror 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 was widely accepted throughout
the early United States, not everyone approved of it. In the late-eighteen 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 of it altogether. In 1794,
Pennsylvania adopted a law to show the different degrees of murder and only used 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 making 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, garroting,
beheading or decapitation, shooting and hanging . These types of punishments today are
considered cruel and unusual. In the United States, the death penalty is currently
authorized 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 years capital punishment
has been one of the most hotly contested political issues in America. This debate is
complicated. Capital punishment is a legal, practical, philosophical, social, political,
and moral question. 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. The fear of death
deters people from committing crimes. Still, abolitionists (people against capital
punishment) believe that deterrence is little more than an assumption. 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 it extensively
show a higher murder rate than those that have abolished the death penalty. Also, states
that have abolished the death penalty and then reinstituted it show no significant change
in the 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 possibly of deterring a would-be murderer from killing
has little effect. Most retentionists (people for capital punishment) argue that none of
this statistical evidence proves that capital punishment does not deter potential
criminals. There is absolutely no way prove, with any certainty, how many would-be
murderers were in fact deterred from killing They point out that the murder rate in any
given state depends on many things besides whether or not that state has 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 population. But a
small minority is ready 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 risks 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. But
rehabilitation is a myth. The state does not know how rehabilitate people because there
are plenty of convict murderers who kill again. The life-sentence is also a myth because
overcrowding in the prisons. Early parole has released convicted murderers and they still
continue murder. Some escape and murder again, while others have murdered someone in
prison. There are countless stories in prisons where a violent inmate kills another for
his piece of chicken. Incapacitation is not solely meant as deterrence but is meant to
maximize public safety by remove any possibility of a convict 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 appeal for persons convicted of capital crimes. Persons under the age of
eighteen, pregnant women, new mothers or persons who have become insane can not be
sentenced to death. Retentionists argue almost all human activities, ranging trucking to
construction, costs the lives of some innocent bystanders. These activities can not be
simply abandoned, because the advantages outweigh the losses. 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
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