The death penalty is an odd and painful kind of punishment. It denies a wrongdoer his or her essential dignity as a human being. No matter how bad a person becomes, no matter how terrible he or she is, people must never cease to regard a person’s worth by executing him or her. Death penalty treats the members of the human race as non-humans or as objects to be toyed with and discarded at any time. Retentionists would respond about this confusing concept of the death penalty by saying that, the death penalty is a more fitting punishment for one who kills in cold blood. But imprisonment without parole should serve as an alternative to the death penalty, and should be given enough and serious consideration. The death penalty should be stopped and must be prohibited (Pojman and Reiman 72).
This essay’s main agenda or main aim is to support the argument that the death penalty should be abolished. In the research, there will be proofs to support that use of the death penalty as a form punishment does not deter crime. Also the research will look at the origin of the use of the death penalty as a form of punishment, and will give the reasons why this form of punishment should be stopped.
What is the meaning of the death penalty?
The death penalty or capital punishment is a legal process whereby a person is sentenced to death for a crime he or she has committed. The actual process of killing the person is called execution. The death penalty tends to brutalize and disregard society and thus it should be completely banned (Johnson and Zimring 289).
The Origin of the Death Penalty
The death penalty was first used in Babylon for various crimes at least 3700 years ago, and was also used in many other parts in the world. Some countries imposed it for terrible crimes, while others imposed it on very minor offenses, for example under the Roman law of the twelve tablets in the 5th century BC, the death penalty was administered for crimes like publishing of insulting songs and also disturbing the peace of the city. Another example is under the Greece Draconian legal code in the seventh century, where the death penalty was a punishment for every crime (Kronenwetter 11).
In a number of ancient societies, the death penalty was used to punish people who committed crimes against the community and religious leaders. The death penalty also served as punishment for other crimes such as robbery, rape, and murder committed against individuals. Rather than being conducted by the legal systems, punishments were carried out by families, clans, and victims in public. According to Kronenwetter, “execution grounds were set up in spacious town squares or in jail yards……ordinary citizens were not only allowed but encouraged to watch wrongdoers pay for their crimes” (12) with an aim of discouraging those that had plans of committing offenses. The relatively frequent use of the death penalty for many crimes in many countries in the ancient times was because there was nothing in these countries that would have served as the modern prison. In modern times however, the death penalty is sparingly used, and those that use them do so for very serious crimes. America has been known to use this form of punishment very much in the modern times (Kronenwetter 11).
Why should death penalty be abolished?
Throughout history, people have been executed for many reasons and often political reasons. The two main reasons for the use of the death penalty have been on the grounds of deterrence and retribution. The death penalty has been carried out in different ways, like lethal injection, cutting off the criminal’s head, or even electrocution. However, instead of helping in deterring criminals from committing offenses, the death penalty has rather hardened many of them like the terrorists.
Punishment is based on the proposition that there must be a penalty for any wrong doing. The more serious a crime is, the more drastic or tough the punishment should be, but the death penalty does not serve as the most appropriate form of punishment. Many democratic countries in Europe and Latin American states were the pioneers in the abolition of the death penalty and several of them promoted the ideal of abolition both within the United Nations, and also within their regional system (Kronenwetter 12).
There are very many reasons why the death penalty should be stopped. These include the facts that the death penalty has led to death of innocent men and women. There several cases of innocent executions that have been documented. This comes as a result of police and prosecutors making premature decisions about persons being guilty, and later conducting investigations designed to confirm their preconceptions though they may be wrong. Police are known to pressure suspects of a crime to confess to committing an offense, though they might be innocent. Also the police are known to withhold evidence that would be of great help to the defense in proving the innocence of a suspect, thus resulting in an innocent person being sentenced to death (Hodgkinson 215).
Through the death penalty, the prisoner’s family suffers from witnessing one of their own being executed by the state. Though the prisoner is guilty, his or her family obviously undergoes a lot of pain and stress in trying to cope with the reality of their family member being executed. Justice is not prevailed by enforcing the death sentence that forces another family to suffer. Two wrongs never make a right (Hodgkinson 215).
The death penalty does not prevent perpetuation of crime. The death penalty does make it impossible for a criminal to commit another crime because he or she will be dead, but other criminals continue to do so and killing all of them isn’t a solution, since others continue to be born. Opponents of the death penalty believe that there are better ways punishing crime and keeping the society safe, like having the offender imprisoned without parole that he or she will never be in contact with the outside world. If death penalty really did prevent people from committing crimes, then people would never be dealing or talking about criminals. If death penalty acted as deterrence then why do murder cases continue to be heard in the courts? According to the FBI’s 2005 report, murder rates were highest in the south and the west. Those are the regions with the highest execution rates and most inmates are sitting in the death row. (Franck 42).
The death penalty has been found to be very expensive. Many people have defended it terming it as very simple and cheaper. However, studies have come to disregard the argument. For example, a study in the state of New York in 1982 showed that a death penalty trial and the first round of appeals cost USD 1.8 million, which is twice as much as keeping a prisoner locked up in jail for life. Also, it is said that it costs nearly three times as much to execute a prisoner as it does to keep him her in jail for forty years (Franck 42).
The death penalty is not fair. When it is carried out, there is no way to undo the sentence once new evidence is found to prove a person’s innocence. Opponents of the death penalty cite numerous studies that show that the poor and members of the minority groups, especially African American are more likely to receive the death penalty than the whites. For example , in 1999, the American Bar Association, a national organization representing more than 400,000 attorneys across the Unite States called a halt on executions, because death sentences were not being handled fairly (Walker 28). It is also not fair to take someone’s life because he or she took another person’s life.
In conclusion, over half of the world’s nations have abolished the use of the death penalty. Since, its introduction, it has been a very difficult and controversial issue, and there are many opinions as there are people. Using death as a penalty for deterrence of crime is not a good solution. The death penalty should have no place in a civilized society because it violates the human right to life. This does not mean that crimes should go unpunished, rather, people should prioritize the human rights. The death penalty leaves a perpetrator without an opportunity of rehabilitation and redemption, which is against the human rights and the bible. If God forgives all men’s iniquities, who are men not to forgive their fellow men. The death penalty is like a double edged sword.
Frank, H. G. The Barbaric Punishment: Abolishing the Death Penalty. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2003. Print.
Hodgkinson, Peter and William A. Schabas. Capital Punishment: Strategies for Abolition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Print.
Johnson, David T. and Franklin E.Zimring. The Next Frontier: National Development, Political Change and the Death Penalty. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.
Kronenwetter, M. Capital Punishment: A Reference Handbook. 2nd ed. California: ABC-CLIO, 2001. Print.
Pojman, Louis P. and Jeffrey Howard Reiman. The Death Penalty: For and Against. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 1998. Print.
Walker, I. The Death Penalty. California: ABC-CLIO, 2008. Print.