Debate on which is more appropriate in the penal systems all around the world, between life in prison and the death sentence has been a controversial issue. This is between the proponents and the opposers of these punishments, as they both have advantages and disadvantages in issues of morality and economic implications for governments. In order to ascertain that life imprisonment is the best alternative to death penalty, it is best to assess the merits and demerits of both forms of punishment and their impact to the society.
Death sentence holds plenty of moral controversy owing to the taking of another’s life. However, it is disputed because of mistakes made in sentencing that are claimed to be rare. The death sentence is given when there exists conclusive evidence on the guilt of a suspect (Smith). The evidence is usually in the form of DNA, and a plus for the death row inmates is that there is a chance to appeal the decisions to sentence them to death. Therefore, it is argued that any person convicted to death stands a chance to prove their case and plead their innocence allowing them to live. In this case, the claim is that it is extremely difficult to sentence an innocent person to death owing to the numerous appeal opportunities accorded to them. In addition, the presence of DNA testing helps to exonerate many, although not entirely. Therefore, the DNA of the convicted may lead to conviction of many due to wrong time and wrong place occurrences, circumstantial evidence. Thus, the Death sentence is appropriate in ridding the society of people committing capital offences, in spite of doing injustice to some. However, life in prison as a sentence is the viable option as compared to the death sentence as delivers more and reduces the chances of exposing innocent people to risk of dying (procon.org). This is because; life in prison is swift, severe and certain providing justice to the victims of the committed crime.
In addition, another reason for the support of death penalty is the cost that the society has to bear concerning maintaining prisoners on life imprisonment (Smith). Therefore, the financial and economic costs of maintaining a prisoner serving life are astronomical to the tune of $50000 a year (Smith). This is more than an individual spends in their normal day-to-day life outside the prison as some earn even less than that. Sentencing such a person to death is easier for the society, as it does not have to shoulder the costs of providing for the needs of the inmates. In addition, the death sentence is more suitable as those sentenced to life in prison are at times released under the context of rehabilitation and overcrowded prisons. This allows them to return to the society and continue with their criminal activities. This way, taking the life of the criminal, ensures with maximum certainty that the crime will not be committed again, but by the same person. However, this is not the case, as there is existence of sentences that subject criminals to life imprisonment with no chance of parole. This way, inmates have way of leaving thus the death sentence is rendered redundant.
However, Life imprisonment is the better option of the two due to its deterrent nature, as the death sentence is not a deterrent measure to stopping crime. This is because; only sane people can plan any crime that is punished by death, as they have the time and ability to carry out the plans that end up in the crime (Smith). This way punishing people by having theme serve time in prison where they cannot enjoy their freedom and some rights reduces the chances of similar crimes recurring, either perpetrated by the same person or other members of the society. In addition, life in prison ensures that no more crimes are committed by the government in the name of protecting the safety of the public through executions (Procon.org). This way, it allows resources to be turned to other issues that require attention other than attempting to exhaust legal channels in a bid to save lives. This is commonly seen in death sentences where convicts spend time and resources in appealing sentences handed down to them. Life in prison is more suitable, as compared to the death sentence as it offers no option of a minimum or maximum time to be served in prison or parole owing to good conduct in prison. This is unlike common belief that life imprisonment allows for inmates to be released if their conduct is deemed suitable for interaction with other members of the society (procon.org)
In addition, a sentence committing the criminal to life in prison allows retributive justice to be functional. This is as opposed by the death sentence that does not allow the criminal to think over their actions and consequences. This is because, the society counters the crime by killing the criminal and not allowing them to reconcile with the victims or the society that the criminal has wronged (procon.org). In this manner, life in prison rids the society of the violence that accrues in the name of justice by taking the life of another to avenge the original life that the criminal took. In logical terms then, the government should be killed for killing a criminal, which in turn leaves the world in a state of anarchy. This is owing to the general logic that capital crime should be punished capitally; by having the offender who killed face death. The offender ends up dead because of the actions perpetrated by an authority. The key question in this case would be on who would take the responsibility of punishing the authorities for their capital crimes. As stated earlier that the cost of sentencing a criminal to life in prison is higher than the death sentence, this is not the case. While going through the tedious process of exhausting the legal channels in a quest to save a life, the convicts remain in the same prisons. This beats the purpose of calling life imprisonment expensive because some of these drag on for a long time thus incurring more expenses than those of inmates in for life (Death penalty focus). This is both exhaustive, economically, to the society and the offender as they both spend too much in attempt to oppose each other’s actions.
In addition, religious groups go with life imprisonment as religious laws view human life as sacred in any case and thus no one has the right to take it except the creator (Liao). As a result, religious groups are against the death penalty as it advocates for taking human life, while there exists a morally cheaper way that does not violate religious laws or the sanctity of human life. Life imprisonment also allows the judicial system to work efficiently with fewer backlogs. This is because; there are fewer appeals to cases of guilty convicts as compared to the numerous ones filed by those in death row (Messerli). It is argued that the death sentence ensures that crime rates go down and failure to implement it results in increased crime rates. However, this is not the case as most of the countries that have scraped the death sentence still enjoy low crime rates with implementation of life imprisonment with no chance of parole (Competition master.com). Those that still execute the death sentence are of the belief that the threat, fear and intimidation of people with the death penalty ensures that people stick to social norms and follow the law accordingly. Concerning punishment for capital such as murder, the common belief is that the crimes were planned prior to their execution. This, however, is not usually the case, as most of them are usually unplanned and the result of drunkenness, anger and short-term loss of rational and logical thinking (Competition master.com). Due to this logical deduction, sentencing an individual to the death sentence is illogical on many levels of reasoning due to severe punishments for accidents in some cases. In addition, compensation has become known as an alternative form of punishment in which the person committing the crime is punished in ways focussing on the victim.
In conclusion, since the debate on which form of punishment should be carried for the various crimes and its moral and economic viability, controversy will always arise. Life imprisonment is a better form of punishment, as compared to the death sentence as it allows the society to benefit from the value of offenders in other fields of life. This means that the offender is kept alive in life imprisonment and works to meet the needs that the victim met during the period he or she was living. Moreover, in this way, the offender gives back to society in terms of services rendered as money is of little, if any, value in the prison system by probably teaching the illiterate. Hence, governments and all entities involved in administration of justice should opt and advocate for life imprisonment to death penalty.
Procon.org. Is Life in Prison Without Parole a Better Option than the Death Penalty? 2009. Web. 17 Jul. 2012.
Messerli Joe. Should the Death Penalty be Banned as a Form of Punishment? BalancedPolitics.Org. n.d. Web. 17 Jul. 2012.
Death Penalty Focus. The High Cost of the Death Penalty. n.d. Web. 17 Jul. 2012.
Smith, Michael. Society Benefits from Death Penalty. Daily Herald, April 23, 2012. Web. 17 Jul. 2012.
Liao, Hali. Life Imprisonment is Better. 1999. Web. 17 Jul. 2012.
Competitionmaster.com. Life Imprisonment is a Good Alternative to Capital Punishment. 2012. Web. 17 Jul. 2012.