With the increase in capital offenses, there are heated debates over the
efficacy of death penalty -
a) in deterring crime; and
b) 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 -
A) examines the positive aspects of the death penalty; and
B) 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 that 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. 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 the death penalty to increase certainty, swiftness and proportionality of