Capital Punishment8




Capitol punishment has not always been a controversial issue. For most of history, most governments have punished numerous crimes by way of death. However, in the mid-18th century critics of this form of punishment began to emphasize the worth of the individual. They considered these practices unjust. The controversy and debate continue today.
The first significant movement to the abolishment of the death penalty occurred during an era known as the Age of Enlightenment. Critics of capitol punishment protest that it is brutal and degrading. They also contend that it is a violation of human rights and goes beyond the limits of governmental power.
Early critics of the death penalty objected to its brutality. The executions were publicized and were done using cruel methods. In the past, people were often executed by way of decapitation. Others were hung, shot, drowned, or burned at the stake. Present methods of executions in various states include injection where a deadly cocktail drips from an IV into the victim’s arm and hanging where the executioner places a noose around the convict’s neck, a trap door opens and the convict drops. The fall is fixed to snap the third and fourth cervical vertebrae or cause asphyxiation. A third method is the firing squad; in this case a five-person execution team aim against a convict’s trunk. A fourth method is the electrocution chair where the convict is strapped to a specially built chair and jolted with electrodes. The power of the jolt varies from state to state. Finally, the gas chambers where the prisoner becomes unconscious within seconds and chokes to death. This form of punishment was also used for minor offenses, not solely for the serious crimes. There is a continued search for less brutal means of execution today. Opponents also argue that it is degrading to the humanity of the person being punished. They have stressed the importance of governments to recognize the significance and importance of each individual.
Another argument stressed the fact that death was not an effective way to control crime and properly punish wrongdoers. A FBI study shows that states that have abolished the death penalty averaged lower murder rates than states that have not. Critics argue that alternative punishment could successfully accomplish the goals that effective punishment wishes to accomplish. These goals include; isolation of criminals from the community, deterrence of other potential offenders from committing crimes. It was expressed that the certainty of punishment was a more effective deterrence, rather than its severity. In a 1995 Hart Research Poll of 386 US police chiefs, implementing tougher death-penalty laws was cited by only 1% as way to reduce violent crime. Most police chiefs said other methods were more effective. Such as reducing drug abuse (31%), creating a better economy (17%), simplifying court rules (16%), or imposing longer prison sentences (15%). In addition, some corrections officers feel that the death penalty laws could increase murder rates. They argue that criminals who face prospect of capital punishment have no incentive to abstain from killing again. Thus, death row inmates have nothing to lose by attacking or killing prison guards or other inmates.
Opponents also argue that many innocent people are likely to be executed. They point out the mistakes in the system, such as the case of Rolando Cruz. He had been convicted for rape and murder of a 10-year-old girl in Illinois in 1983. He was vindicated of the charges 12 years later when a man confessed of the murder and genetic test proved that Cruz was not the culprit. Another man, Ronald Williamson, spent 12 years in prison including 9 on death row before being proven innocent. He, and fellow suspect Dennis Fritz, who also did jail time were convicted of rape and murder. They were proven innocent through DNA testing. All of these men are victims of our justice system. Since 1973, more than 43 people have been released from prison after being sentenced to death despite their innocence. A recently-published book, “In Spite of Innocence”, notes that since 1900 there have been 416 documented cases of innocent persons who have been convicted and given a death sentence. The authors discovered that in 23 of these cases, the person was executed
The death penalty also punishes the poor. It