With the increase in capital offenses, there are heated debates over the efficacy of death penalty in deterring crime and as a form of retribution justice. Consequently, scholars and legal experts have come up with contradicting perspectives and divergent theoretical constructs for examining the appropriateness of using the capital punishment for radical crimes. This paper critically examines whether death penalty should be mandatory for people who kill others and the reasons behind it. In doing this, the paper examines the positive aspects of the death penalty and summarizes the counterarguments. The death penalty or capital punishment refers to the lawful punishment of death for a wide variety of offenses. Experts argue that capital punishment has been used widely from the ancient civilizations to modern criminal justice applications. The use of capital punishment varies from one jurisdiction to the other with several states applying the death penalty while others abolishing it, Banner (2002, p.45).
The infliction of the death penalty has elicited divergent opinions and contradicting perspectives from scholars and experts not only in modern times but also in the ancient history of the punishment - Lynn. The proponents of the death penalty argue that in general, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
One of the strongest arguments for the death penalty is based on the concept of deterrence of crime. The deterrence theory is based on the understanding that criminals are deterred if the consequences of a crime outweigh the benefits. Researchers claim that humans are basically aware of the differences between rights and wrong and as such the commission of crime is a free choice involving choices based on consequences of actions. As such, the proponents argue that death penalty is an effective deterrence to criminals contemplating committing a capital offense. These analysts argue hat the death penalty creates fear in the mind of potential offenders given the harsh punishment.
The other argument for death penalty is based on the understanding that it eliminates villains and habitual killers from the society who would otherwise continue to harass people. The proponents argue hat when a criminal is executed he no longer poses any threat. This follows the logical argument that the execution of killers and other radical offenders would contribute to safer societies, Banner (2002, p.60).
The third argument for the death punishment is based on the cost implications. The proponents of the death penalty argue that confining criminals to prisons and rehabilitation centers involves expenditure of taxpayers' money. The costs of death penalty are paltry compared with the enormous expenditure of public funds and the general impact of release of such people to the societies. There are arguments that the criminals released may lead to panic and fear in the society or the recruitment of other criminals which may not be necessarily quantifiable in terms of costs, David (2006, p.50). As such, the proponents argue that the death penalty for killers is less costly than other punishments by all considerations.
The proponents maintain that keeping criminals in prisons creates the possibility of escape from custody which means that the individuals could commit more crime. The death penalty eliminates such possibilities of crime recurrence from the same perpetrator.
Other scholars use the retribution theory is the basis for supporting the death penalty. Under the retribution theory, the proponents argue that fundamentally, criminals deserve punishment that is proportionate to the offense committed. The theory of proportional punishment has elicited contradicting perspectives although the fundamental basis is that retribution is a rational approach which has the potential to deter criminal tendencies. Retribution is generally a concept of justice and is different from revenge which is based on emotions of hatred. Based on the retribution approach, the murderer put on death penalty gets a deservedly punishment as reflected in the lex talionis (the law of retaliation, whereby a punishment resembles the offence committed in kind and degree.). Why the society should be forced to keep criminals in jails and prisons paying for their foods, their shelter and security. Matters get complicated given that most victims and the general public live in in an environment of fear whenever such criminals are loose either by unlawful escape from custody or judicial release from custody. There are arguments that serial killers and murderous have escaped from custody in the past committing more crimes. The proponents of the death penalty argue that the most effective way of punishing killers is to put them on the death penalty. Similarly, proponents of the death penalty argue that criminals facing death row are given fair trial and the appeal processes is kind to convicts as opposed to the ordeals that the victims go through. The convicts have the opportunity to appeal and make last wishes; the victims have no such pleasure, David (2006, p.60).
On the other hand, critics argue that the death penalty is unreasonable and serves no purpose in deterring crime. Some opponents of the death penalty base their arguments on the cost implications of the death penalty. The opponents maintain that the cost of death penalty and the ensuing legal proceedings for parole far outweighs the costs of jail sentence. In addition, appeals against the death sentence involve great expense to taxpayers. However, researchers argue that the cost implications may not be limited to material cost given that this may lead to lack of security and anxiety in the society which are basically not quantifiable, Delfino & Mary (2007, p.78). The opponents of death sentence argue that the capital punishment does not deter killers. Criminologists agree that death penalty does not deter homicide behaviors. The opponents base their arguments on the comparison of murder rates in states with the death penalty and those without it. For instance the south which has over 80% of death penalty has also the highest number of murder cases. The critics hold that capital punishment only increases the tendency for criminal behavior as perpetrators kill their victims to eliminate traces of evidence. However, there is general agreement that deterrence is a vital aspect of any punishment method and as such, death penalty has the potential to deter planned murder and homicide if well packaged and implemented, Banner (2002, p.70). Other arguments against the death penalty for murderers are based on ethical and moral considerations.
The opponents argue that murder is cruel and an unusual punishment that is disproportionate to any crime. Based on Kantian and religious ethical perspectives, there is general conception that no one has the rights to take out the life of another irrespective of the crime. However, a critical analysis reveals that under capital offense, man is man with a universal scope. There are no rights to be violated for the criminals and hence the use of rights approach has no basis. In addition, the use of moral basis for arguing against death penalty could also be depended on fundamental perceptions within the particular society and the distinction between crime and punishment, Delfino & Mary (2007, p.72). It is therefore imperative that death penalty for murderous is not uncivilized or barbaric as some opponents claim. Some scholars argue that the proper measure of justice is certainty, swiftness and proportionality of the punishment regime. Evidently, death penalty should be enacted to serve the purpose of retribution or deterrence.
The proponents of death penalty base their perspectives on an array of conflicting arguments. The fundamental basis for the death punishment is to deter crime just like any other criminal punishment. Moreover, based on the retributive justice approaches, the death sentence gives a near proportionate punishment to the perpetrator. Similarly, the proponents use cost implication and social anxiety and fear in the society to argue for executions. However, the critics of the death penalty base their arguments on rights ethics, Kantian moral and ethical principles as well as the cost implications. A critical analysis reveals that the death sentence is an effective punishment that serves intended purposes of deterrence and retribution, Delfino & Mary (2007, p.70). It is therefore imperative that governments must streamline legal proceedings for death penalty to increase certainty, swiftness and proportionality of justice.