Capital Punishment Debate: Arguments in Support

Abstract

Capital punishment has since long been a hotly debated subject, with some countries retaining it and others abolishing the practice. In the U.S, it was reinstated in 1976 by the Supreme Court. Those in favor of retaining capital punishment put forward 8 arguments, claiming such a punishment not only incapacitates dangerous criminals, but that it is also economically correct, it delivers just retribution, it creates deterrence, the victim’s family feels vindicated, it has a good effect on society, there exist documents that implicitly or explicitly permit the practice and there is no possibility of mistake involved in this form of punishment. In addition, empirical evidence overwhelmingly points to the fact that capital punishment is correct in the current world scenario.

Introduction

‘Capital Punishment’ or the ‘Death Penalty’ is the judicially ordered, lawful infliction of death as a punishment for a serious crime called a ‘capital offence’ or a ‘capital crime. There have been several arguments for and against Capital Punishment with some countries retaining it and others abolishing it. In the U.S, the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional in 1972. However, another Supreme Court reinstated Capital Punishment in 1976. Today, it is followed in 36 States as well as by the Federal Government. Capital Punishment is a far better tool than life imprisonment as it maintains the individual and society’s faith in law and the legal system thereby making the country a better and safer living place.

Arguments for Capital Punishment

Incapacitation of the criminal

Capital Punishment permanently removes the worst criminals from society. Death permanently incapacitates them and prevents them from committing any offences either within prison or after escaping or being released from prison. If they are not executed, they will use every possible escape route to get off {e.g. plea bargaining, citing grounds of alleged psychiatric disorders, intimidating key witnesses}. Even life without parole {LWOP} sentences will only incite prisoners to kill staff or inmates or take hostages in a bid to escape. Moreover, there is no guarantee that future governments will not release such offenders.

Capital Punishment is economically correct

Life imprisonment is expensive. By helping to reduce the social costs of criminal activity as well as the apprehension and conviction costs for crime, Capital Punishment saves the money of the State and its taxpayers – such money that can be used on the more genuinely needy (Clark http://www.richard.clark32.btinternet.co.uk/thoughts.html). The annualized cost of building and operating prison cells is about $ 5,000 and the cost of maintaining a maximum- security prisoner is about $ 20,000 per year. Considering the average incarceration term of someone convicted of homicide {30.8 years} and the average male life expectancy in U.S. prisons, the total cost of LWOP is $ 750,000 to $ 1.1 million per prisoner.

Just retribution is delivered

Society still views murder as a particularly heinous crime that should justify the most severe punishment. Capital Punishment is a just punishment based on the vengeance principle of “lex talens” {an eye for an eye} – one that is also advocated under Leviticus in the Bible. A criminal has taken the life or lives of other human beings, and it is only just and proper that his life be taken away from him in retribution.

Our present justice system shows more sympathy for criminals than it does for victims. By adopting Capital Punishment, the fundamental principle of justice, namely, ‘the punishment should fit the crime’ is upheld (Messerli http://www.balancedpolitics.org/death_penalty.htm). People who support the Death Penalty are not sadists, but just quietly desperate that they and their families are being overwhelmed by the rising tide of crime.

Deterrence is created

Capital Punishment serves as an active deterrent to others. Crime would run rampant as never before if there wasn’t some way to deter people from committing crimes. Life imprisonment is a soft deterrent; for most hardened criminals, more is needed. For those criminals already in prison, the threat of their sentence being upgraded to Death Row will deter them from committing murder while in prison, or if they manage to escape and go on a crime/murder spree.

The victim’s family feels vindicated

Capital Punishment gives closure to the victims’ families who have suffered so much; those family members who have been made orphans, widows and childless all due to the barbaric action of a psychopath. Some family members of crime victims may take years or decades to recover from the shock and loss of a loved one; some may never recover. Capital Punishment brings finality to a horrible chapter in the lives of these family members.

Good effect on society

Capital Punishment makes people realize that it is not easy to get away with crime in general and high profile crime in particular. The long arm of the law is definitely around to catch them, the justice system is there to convict them and the Death Penalty is waiting to execute those that deserve that punishment. The tremendous amount of media coverage for such executions, plus the tendency of people turning up in large numbers to witness executions is, viewed in the above context, a beneficial one for society in general.

Documents of authority implicitly or explicitly allow for Capital Punishment

Many documents guaranteeing the right to life, either implicitly or explicitly make allowances for the Death Penalty. The American Convention for Human Rights states: “Every person has the right to have his life respected. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of life (emphasis added)”, meaning the instrument does not prohibit all taking of human life by the government, merely that which is arbitrary. Even the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights declares: “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life. In countries that have not abolished the Death Penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes”.

There is no possibility of mistake

Pro-Capital Punishment advocators refute allegations that innocent people are frequently executed by saying that the trails and appeals process is so thorough, that it is impossible to convict an innocent person. Secondly, a jury of 12 members is required to unanimously declare the defendant guilty. Thirdly, DNA testing {which is over 99 percent correct} can now effectively eliminate uncertainty as to a person’s guilt or innocence (Messerli http://www.balancedpolitics.org/death_penalty.htm).

Conclusion

In the modern day scenario, empirical evidence points to the fact that Capital Punishment is the only real and effective way to combat the rise of crime. Britain, which abolished the Death Penalty in 1964, has witnessed a steadily rising murder rate; the rate was 300 before 1964, rose to 675 in 1979 and 833 in 2004. More significantly, between 1965 and 1998, 71 murders were committed by people released from prison after serving life sentences. On the other hand, in the U.S., the murder rate dropped from 24,562 in 1993 to 18,209 in 1997 and 15,600 in 2003. In Singapore, which also adopts the Death Penalty, the number of people executed dropped from 7 in 1995 to 4 in 1996, 3 in 1997 and just 1 in 1998 (Clark http://www.richard.clark32.btinternet.co.uk/thoughts.html).

References

  • At the Edge of the Oath. (1998). Web.
  • Clark, R. (N.d). Thoughts on the Death Penalty. Web.
  • Issue Memorandum 99-20. (1999). Web.
  • Messerli, J. (2007). Should the Death Penalty be banned as a Form of Punishment? Web.
  • White, D. (2008). Pros & Cons of the Death Penalty & Capital Punishment. Web.