Capital punishment refers to the procedure of killing persons to be disciplined for such offenses without an effective court process. In the near years, various expert opinions have arisen with some people opposed to it, while others supported it (Collier 1). The heated debate on this subject is based on the principles of vengeance, justice, and deterrent. Retribution refers to the act of providing deserving justice to a person for committing a wrongful act, whereas deterrent is a form of punishment that may prevent an individual from repeating similar offenses. The theory of justice relates to the tradition of treating others fairly and reasonably (Steiker and Garland 10). Although there are many opposing views on capital punishment, it is important because it prevents crime in the society, defends the innocent and effectively reprimands the wrongdoers.
The idea of retribution is usually applied by proponents of capital punishment to justify its existence in the society. They assert that capital punishment is suitable when applied in circumstances of serious crime especially when dealing with incidences of massacre, terrorism, child murder and police murder (Prejean 1). Therefore, death penalty can be used when the magnitude of the crime committed is more pronounced. Furthermore, proponents of this method suggest that extreme punishments are reasonable since each murderer should die because the loss of human life cannot be matched to any other form of imprisonment. Similarly, death penalty is supported on the fact that communities have an ethical responsibility to preserve the welfare and safety of its members (Usman 3). For this reason, assassins disrupt this welfare and safety. In this regard, only by executing the murderers that the government ensures that the convicted assassins get what they deserve (Collier 1). Similarly, capital punishment offers a chance of proportional penalty. When the punishment is not retributive, it cannot really turn out to be preventative in nature. When capital punishment is not used the country losses the element of retribution which can cause anarchy.
However, capital punishment has been criticized by various scholars and scientists. Precisely opponents of death penalty suggest that retribution is revenge hence should not be tolerated. In addition, they imply that murderers warrant respect because they have the ability to make free and rational choices (Steiker and Garland 11). Based on their opinions, most victims of murder demand revenge particularly via capital penalty. When these people succeed in pursuing vengeance towards the offenders, they turn out to be perpetrators. Therefore, capital punishment is socially and morally unacceptable because it avenge the death of other persons (Collier 2). Moreover, people should desist from advocating for capital punishment when dealing with serious criminal offences such as rape because it does not achieve retribution.
Critics of retributivist concept of capital punishment note that it is an inadequate technique to accomplish justice to the victims. Since the utilization of retribution is based on the “eye for an eye” thought, in case a serial murderer kills ten persons, then slaying him or her is principally not justifiable (Prejean 4). Some crimes are so terrible that they lack a procedure to retributively balance the justice scales. Retribution is meant to offer a penalty that is proportionate to the kind of criminal activity committed hence matching the justice scales. Nevertheless, this element is rarely applicable when dealing with heinous crime. In particular, it cannot be used among torturers and the rapists (Collier 2). Additionally, opponents of capital punishment argue that the world must change their practices since it is too punishing for contemporary human standards (Seal 21).
Secondly, proponents of capital punishment maintain that it is very beneficial as it assist to deter serious crime. In so doing, this strategy helps to develop highest levels of stability against evil. People who are deterred via death penalty are less likely to participate in wrongful deeds (Usman 3). The principle of deterrence is based on the concept that some heinous and dreadful crimes need stiffer punishment such as death. In this respect, some crimes cannot be deterred through mere life imprisonment hence stiffer penalties such as capital punishment is desirable in such cases. Deterrence does not imply that the nation will not experience criminal activities but instead it entail prevention of the humanity from embracing anarchy which encourages people to engage in wrongful deeds without fear of any repercussions (Steiker and Garland 13). For this reason, if the death sentence were not allowed, then it would encourage more people join the crime. For instance, in the cases of terrorism, if capital punishment were not applied, then it would send a message that the state is weak and culprits have no severe consequence. Therefore, death sentence in most cases can provide deterrence against most of the crimes that may occur in the future (Collier 3). Similarly, they protect the community from falling into anarchism.
Conversely, critics of capital punishment suggest that it is not an effective practice of deterring ferocious wrongdoing. Recent reports have noted that death penalty does not reduce crime. Most of the states and countries across the globe have eliminated capital punishment in their legal framework (Prejean 5). Most notably, the rate of crime is not associated to whether a particular country has enacted capital penalty legislations. In fact, the rate of crime seems to be higher in states or jurisdiction with the capital penalty legislation as compared to those without. Indeed, capital punishment does not necessarily achieve the values of preserving the public from murderers who may choose to kill them (Collier 1). Furthermore, the opponents of this method argue that deterrence can be achieved through long-term imprisonment of offenders which advantageous because it does not take away another human life. Additionally, capital punishment fails to ensure that perpetrators get what they deserve. They also insist that murder crimes must not be punished by death although they should be subjected to severest form of punishment that human ethics and morals can permit (Usman 7).
According to proponents of capital punishment, the method is a good way to deliver justice to the victims. They maintain that justice demands that perpetrators of heinous act such as murder should be punished by death. Most notably, justice is principally a process of ensuring that all people are treated fairly and reasonably (Collier 2). It is unfair for a criminal who intentionally causes huge pains onto others but fails to undergo such sufferings. Significantly, the principle of justice recommends that the government must impose fair measures of pain to perpetrators of atrocious crime in the same manner they execute to the innocent citizens (Steiker and Garland 19). Capital punishment is beneficial because it strengthens fairness by imposing deaths to people who intentionally caused pain or suffering to others.
Nevertheless, the idea that capital punishment delivers justice to the perpetrators of serious wrongdoing is opposed by people, which believe that it is unjust. Opponents of this form of punishment argue that justice requires that all people must be treated equally and fairly (Collier 2). Various studies have pointed out that although most individuals are convicted of homicide, only a few are subjected to death punishment. Therefore, justice is maintained even in states and nations that allow death sentences. For instance, the US, approximately 19, 000 people were charged for homicide in 1987, but only 300 were sentenced to face death punishment (Usman 9). Furthermore, the critics of this practice suggest that members of minority groups such as African Americans and the Latinos are likely to be unfairly targeted by the legislations. Precisely, most researches have indicated that the majority of victims of death penalty belong to the minority groups and persons of poor backgrounds in many countries including the United States (Steiker and Garland 21). Therefore, challengers of this procedure assert that person are normally victims of death penalties because they lack adequate resources to appeal their sentences, belong to the minorities, have a weak defence or lack witnesses in their cases (Seal 23).
Capital punishment does not deliver justice to most of the innocent persons affected by crime. Research has noted that from 1990s, more than 400 people have been erroneously sentenced of capital rape or homicide in the United States (Seal 23). Since the death punishment is irreversible, it acts as a barrier to correct any such errors in the future. Nevertheless, in case capital punishment is illegal, the wrongly convicted persons later discovered to be innocent can be compensated and released for wrongful imprisonment (Prejean 7). Therefore, the existence of capital punishment cannot be justified since it is unjust to the people who are convicted.
A wide range of reasons supporting and opposing the use of capital punishment has been provided to criminal justice system. Although there are many opinions against it, some of them do not hold when the issue is applied in the larger perspective (Collier 5). Most of the arguments against this method do apply to other form of punishment. If a state eliminates capital punishment based on these opposing views, then the entire humanity will end up in anarchy and chaos (Seal 21). Consequently, criminality will increase and citizens will suffer. Although no institution or person has a moral right to take was someone’s life, authority should use capital punishment to safeguard the life of innocent people, and reprimand wrongdoers (Usman 3). Lastly, it also plays an important part in prevention of the entire community from falling into criminality.
Collier, Linda J. “Adult crime, adult time: Out-dated juvenile laws thwart justice.” Washington Post 29 (1998).
Prejean, Helen. “Executions Are Too Costly—Morally.” Open Questions: Readings forCritical Thinking, Reading, and Writing. Ed. Chris Anderson and Lex Runciman. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005. 614-18
Seal, Lizzie. Capital Punishment in Twentieth-century Britain: Audience, Justice, Memory. Routledge, 2014.
Shatz, Steven F., and Naomi R. Shatz. “Chivalry is not dead: murder, gender, and the death penalty.” Berkeley J. Gender L. & Just. 27 (2012): 64.
Steiker, Carol S., and David Garland. “Capital Punishment and Contingency.” (2012): 760-787.
Usman, Jeffrey Omar. “Capital Punishment, Cultural Competency, and Litigating Intellectual Disability.” (2012).