Death penalty is one of the hotly debated topics in the world at present. Some people argue that death penalty should be given to the hard core criminals in order to save the life of innocent people whereas others believe that death penalty should not be imposed under any circumstances because of the huge value associated with human life.
Some of the most civilized countries like United States advocate death penalty to hard core criminals for the protection of the lives of the innocent people even though trials leading to death penalty are the most expensive way of punishment. Being a Christian country, America cannot justify death penalty on moral grounds. Retribution and deterrence are often cited as the major objectives aiming to achieve by giving death penalty in America; however, these objectives are difficult to achieve under present circumstances. America is often accused for showing double standards while deciding capital punishments for the Whites and Blacks.
It is a fact that some hard core criminals may repeat the crimes if they released from the prison. Some people argue that capital punishment will force people to think in terms of the value associated with human life. However, capital punishment will eliminate the differences between a civilized and uncivilized society. The secrets behind life and death are unknown to science and technology yet. In short, death penalty is a complex topic and is difficult to either support or criticize it.
The Death Penalty
“The death penalty is the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights” (Death Penalty). Death penalty is one of the highly controversial subjects in the world because of the serious ethical issues involved in it. Critiques of death penalty argue that humans don’t have the moral or legal right to take the life of another person even if he has committed serious crimes. On the other hand, supporters of death penalty argue that in order to save the lives of innocent people or to save the people from threats, death penalty is unavoidable at certain circumstances. “Around 137 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. However, despite international human rights standards, some nations still execute people” (Death Penalty). “In 2004 four (China, Iran, Vietnam and the US) accounted for 97 percent of all global executions. On average, every 9-10 days a government in the United States executes a prisoner” (Pros and Cons of the Death Penalty (Capital Punishment)). Surprisingly, United Sates, one of the prominent countries which value and argue for human right protection, has no hesitation in giving death penalties to serious criminals. “In US, as of April 1, 2008, the Death Penalty was authorized by 37 states, the Federal Government, and the U.S. Military” (The death penalty in the US) (See appendix for more details). This paper analyses the pros and cons of death penalty by taking United States as the example.
Capital punishment is an expensive way of punishment compared to other punishments because of the heavy expenses needed for it. It is around 70% more expensive when compared to other punishment methods. The trial of a criminal which leads towards a capital punishment is expensive because of the heavy fees needed to be given to the advocates, expert witnesses, forensic testing etc.
“In the United States, death penalty is said to serve two principal social purposes: retribution and deterrence of capital crimes by prospective offenders” (Delfino & Day, p.1). America is a Christian country which adheres to the teachings of Jesus Christ. But, Jesus asked his disciples to love the enemies rather than punishing them. Retribution through capital punishment cannot be justified under any circumstances if we analyze it though the lenses of Christian doctrines. Deterrence is the second objective of giving capital punishments to criminals. However, hard core criminal activities are growing across the world and united Sates is also not an exception. In other words, the deterrence objective of capital punishment is also impossible to achieve at present because of the readiness of criminals to sacrifice their lives for completing their mission.
Many people believe that the recent execution of former Iraq dictator Saddam Husain was an example for the misuse of capital punishment laws. “About 52% of death row inmates are Black or other minority, versus 17% in the general population” (The death Penalty, Capital punishment). The above statistics again confirm the misuse of death penalty in United States. In a country like United States, most of the people punished for capital punishment belong to the minority community. This is not because of the excess crime committed by the minority community. In fact the Whites committing serious crimes were able to escape from laws because of their influences upon the criminal justice system. In short, the criminal justice system in America is accused of keeping double standards while giving capital punishments to the Whites and the Blacks. “It is widely acknowledged that innocent people have most likely been executed in the U.S” (Schlein). As per the basic principles of criminal justice system, no innocent people should be punished even if thousands of criminals escaped from the hands of law. But the above principle was often been violated and there are many cases in which innocent people were punished while many criminals escaped from law using their financial power.
“Capital punishment doesn't rehabilitate the prisoner and return them to society and it is undeniable that those who are executed cannot commit further crimes” (Arguments in Favour of Capital Punishment). In many cases, persons with criminal behaviour repeat the crimes once they released from the prisons. In other words, most of the criminals who get life imprisonment in prisons will get parole and probation and they will be released after a particular period of time. Thus they will get opportunities again to kill the innocent people. For example, the Muslim fundamentalists consider killing of enemies of Islam as a sacred act. Such criminals have the belief that sacrificing the life for the religion may bring salvation to them. They will never stop their behaviours even after spending long periods in prisons. Nobody can think that Bin Laden might stop his terrorist activities if he is put in jail for 20 or 30 years and then released. Thus supporters of death penalty argue that serious and hard core criminals must be executed in order to save the lives of other innocent people. In their opinion, certain crimes are so terrible that executing the criminal is the only reasonable response. “According to Edward Koch, by exacting the highest penalty for the taking of human life, we affirm the highest value of human life” (The death penalty Basic reasons: pro and anti).
No science or technology has succeeded ever in unveiling the mysteries behind life. Nobody knows from where we come and where we go after death. In other words, the mysteries surrounding the life before birth and after death are still unknown to human being. Those who work behind the life of human may have definite plans and it is ethically wrong to act against the will of the creator. “Amnesty International believes that “the death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice” (White).
To conclude, death penalty is highly controversial. The arguments of both the supporters and the critics of death penalty seem to be equally prominent. It is necessary to protect the lives of innocent people at any cost. At the same time, saving the life of criminals should not be done by taking the life of others because of the immense value associated with human life.
“Arguments in Favour of Capital Punishment”. BBC Ethics Guide.
and Day, Mary E. “Death Penalty USA: 2005 – 2006”
Publisher: Mobeta Publishing (January 3, 2008)
“Death Penalty” Amnesty International USA. 2009. Web. 27 January 2011
“History of the Death Penalty & Recent Developments”. 2009. University of Alaska
Anchorage, Justice Centre. Web. 27 January 2011
“Pros and Cons of the Death Penalty (Capital Punishment)”. 2009. Web. 27 January 2011
Schlein, Lisa. “UN Investigator Says US Death Penalty Leads to Miscarriage of Justice”.2009. Web. 27 January 2011
“The Death penalty in the US”. The Clark county prosecuting authority . Web. 27 January 2011
“The Death Penalty Basic reasons: Pro and Anti”. Web. 27 January 2011
“The Death Penalty, Capital Punishment”. 2002. Web. 27 January 2011
White, Deborah. “Pros & Cons of the Death Penalty”. 2010. Web. 27 January 2011. Appendix(History of the Death Penalty & Recent Developments)