Capital punishment is perhaps the most debated and widely discussed issue on international platforms. This is because it touches the most sensitive issue governing the very basis of civilization – i.e. Human Life. Capital punishment, also known as death penalty, is meted out to convicts of extreme offences such as murder and rape. It aims at deterring others from committing similar crimes. Death penalty has been in existence for a long time and it is surprising that such a barbaric and inhumane act is still enduring in the apparently civilized world we live in today. This paper discusses why death penalty should be banned and whether it has been successful in reducing the rates of crimes that it is meant to deter. Since life is extremely valuable, no crime is significant enough to demand a deliberate and “lawful” murder of any individual. Death penalty should thus be banned and all laws that permit it should be exterminated.
Several studies have proved that death penalty is unsuccessful in reducing crime rates. The main goal of capital punishment is to set an example for prospective criminals and to instill the fear that they will meet the same end for their crimes. Capital punishment thus aims at deterring any future crimes. However, it seems to have failed in achieving its objectives. According to statistics published by the Death Penalty Information Center, murder rates in death penalty states are higher than in non-death penalty states. The murder rate in death penalty states in 1990 was 9.5 while it was 9.16 in the non-death penalty states. By 2009, the murder rates in death penalty states came down to 5.26 and to 3.90 in non-death penalty states. Over the years, murder rates have been consistently higher in death-penalty states than in non-death penalty states (DPIC). Studies on the influence of capital punishment on homicide rates in Singapore and Hong Kong have shown that capital punishment does not affect homicidal trends (Zimring, Fagan, and Johnson 1). As is evident, capital punishment, as compared to non-capital punishment, has not been successful in reducing, let alone eliminating, extreme offences. Since it has failed in achieving its objectives, it is illogical to continue capital punishment as a way of rendering justice and reducing crimes.
Death is irreversible. If evidence found after a death sentence proves the innocence of the condemned, there is no hope of reconciliation since the dead cannot be brought back to life. There is always a chance that innocent individuals may be convicted for a crime they did not commit. About 130 individuals who had been wrongfully convicted in death rows have been released in the US since 1973, and in 2003 alone, there were 10 releases (“Death Penalty and Innocence”). Examples of such individuals include Ray Krone who was released in 2002 after spending ten years in prison. Ray Krone was proven innocent based on DNA testing, which was unavailable earlier. Technological limitations, racial prejudice and many other factors cause such wrongful convictions. Very often, a large number of innocent persons are wrongfully convicted, and the fact that some of these individuals are given a death sentence further multiplies the injustice done to them. It does not reduce crime and murder rates, but only adds further to the death count of innocent individuals. All punishments should be such that they can be revoked if future evidence proves that the condemned offender is not guilty. A death sentence cannot be revoked once the offender is put to death. Therefore, capital punishment should be banned to avoid the murder of innocent individuals.
There is always a possibility that a guilty person would repent for his crimes and transform into a righteous individual. All offenders should be given a chance to change and rehabilitate. Most often, crimes are done under psychologically unstable states or under unconditional circumstances. Therefore, the mental well-being of criminals should be sought and they should be turned into good resources for the society. Examples abound of criminals such as Danny Trejo and Georgia Durante who turned good and led great lives later on (Dietle). The justice system should thus aim at transforming criminals and using them as tools to educate and motivate others into leading good lives and avoiding crimes. By subjecting them to death sentences, this opportunity is lost and yet another life is wasted.
Man has no right to take the life of another, be it unlawfully or lawfully. Since we cannot give life, we cannot take it. Moreover, the mere notion that the justice system is trying to prevent future murders by “murdering”/executing a criminal seems unjustifiable, illogical and brutal. Since capital punishment has been unsuccessful in reducing crime rates, and often leads to the killing of an innocent individual in addition to leaving no scope for future retribution and repentance by an offender, it should be abolished. Instead, the justice and legal system should attempt at transforming criminals and using them for the betterment of society. Other schemes should be devised and steps should be taken to prevent crimes, rather than providing a “plaster and band-aid” solution to the problem by taking the life of a human being.
“Death Penalty and Innocence”. Amnesty International, Amnestyusa.org. Web. 2 October 2011. .
Dietle, David. “6 People Who Turned a Life of Crime Into Legitimate Careers”. 9 July, 2010. Cracked.com. Web. 2 October 2011. .
DPIC. “Deterrence: States Without the Death Penalty Have Had Consistently Lower Murder Rates (2011). Web. 2 October 2011. .
Zimring, F E, Jeffrey Fagan, and D T Johnson. “Executions, Deterrence, and Homicide: A Tale of Two Cities.” Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 7.1 (2010): 1-29. Web. 2 October 2011. .