Up The World Essay, Research Paper
Capital Punishment: A Means of Cleaning up the World
Capital punishment, or the execution of a criminal, was once a common activity throughout the world. It became ordinary in the Middle Ages and was inflicted for a large number of crimes. Because the methods used then, such as burning at the stake and slow strangulation, were not democratic, capital punishment slowly died. It returned, however, with methods such as lethal injection and the electric chair. Many people believe these methods are not democratic either; therefore, some states are declaring capital punishment as illegal. The ethical issues facing this process are numerous, but the costs to our society without it are even greater. In the next few paragraphs I will prove that capital punishment is more suitable than life in prison and the oppositions to it, such as the ethicality, religion, and cruel and unusual punishment laws, can easily be dismissed.
Each year in the United States three hundred people are given the death sentence, but of those three hundred only fifty or sixty are actually executed (Eckholm A1). In Anger and Ambivalence, free lance writer David Kaplan of
Newsweek says that, the rare inmate to die hangs on close to ten years before meeting the executioner (24). Over the years capital punishment has become a long and tedious process involving unnecessary court cases and thousands of appeals. Many judges are afraid of seeking the death
penalty, resulting in thousands of inmates stuck on death row. These judges fear one of the rare cases where the inmate is innocent, but receives execution. The questions dealing with capital punishment must be answered and the system must be sped up.
If the capital punishment process were more common, taxpayers would save money. Every year millions of tax dollars are spent keeping inmates on death row. We, as taxpayers, are forced to pay for the inmate’s food, recreational activities, clothes, attorneys, and educational facilitators, such as books (Lemov 26). Also, if inmates are sentenced to death, they are allowed to appeal, which involves delaying the execution date and more money from taxpayers. These costly and timely appeals are unnecessary. Why should we allow a convicted murderer to delay his/her execution? Once someone is sentenced to death, the process should be quick and without problems such as unnecessary appeals.
On the other hand, why shouldn’t we use life in prison as a more democratic option? If prisoners were not sentenced to death, appeals would be less common and we would not have to pay for attorneys. In 1996, California spent ninety million dollars on capital cases, but only managed to gas two inmates (Kaplan 24). So, life in prison seems like a comparable solution until prison overpopulation is figured in. If the system was quicker, it would still be cheaper than life in prison and prison overpopulation would be less of a problem. With a quick system and no unnecessary appeals, the taxpayers would save millions.
Continuing to denounce life in prison is the mere fact that many criminals who are sentenced to life in prison do not actually serve a life sentence. Criminals can get shortened sentences for good behavior as long as his/her sentence allows for parole. Many people may think that they would rather save themselves a few tax dollars. Their view would be changed, though, if their relative or close friend was the first victim of the released criminal. Our society wants to believe that prison changes the criminal, but the truth is, most criminals return to prison a second and sometimes third time.
So, with the many advantages of capital punishment, why is it uncommon? First, a death penalty case takes much more time than other cases, so it is easier for the judges to sentence a criminal to life in prison. Many judges realize that if the inmate is actually innocent, which is a rare occurrence, they will receive a lawsuit. Since most
judges would rather worry about themselves than society, they choose life in prison instead of death. There has also been controversy on whether the death penalty violates cruel and unusual punishment laws. Lastly, some people feel it is not moral to kill someone and many people feel their religious beliefs oppose it. Although these are logical oppositions, they can easily be dismissed.
Since I have already proven, through economical issues and shortened sentences, that life in prison is a bad option, I will now prove capital punishment does not violate the cruel and unusual punishment laws. The most common method used in the death penalty is lethal injection. In using this method, two intravenous lines filled with saline solution, which contains drugs that put the criminal in a deep sleep, are started in each of the inmate’s arms. After the inmate enters the deep sleep, the drugs cause the inmate to stop breathing and die (Lethal
Injection). The inmate does not feel anything during this process; therefore, it can not be said to be a means of cruel punishment. Of the executions that have taken place in the United States this year, only two have been by methods other than lethal injection. Since 1976, there have been 423 inmates put to death by lethal injection, which is more than all of the other forms of the death
penalty combined (Executions in 1999). So, the criminal is actually getting an easy way out compared to what he/she most likely put his/her victim through. The criminal is the person who violated the cruel and unusual punishment laws, not the state.
Continuing, capital punishment can easily be proven to be ethically right. One of the greatest ethicists of all time is Aristotle. Although he may have opposed capital punishment, his ideas promoted it. Aristotle believes that moral virtue is habituated. His ideas show that stricter laws need to be enforced to make people more noble in character. If the death penalty were more strictly enforced, people would be more noble in character. Aristotle’s philosophies also state that once a virtue is made lawful, it will not be painful; therefore, if the death penalty is strictly enforced as punishment for
certain crimes, it will not be painful to avoid committing those crimes(Bonevac 20-25). Aristotle’s ideas are directly in favor of the death penalty.
Opposing Aristotle’s view is another great philosopher, Immanuel Kant. Immanuel Kant is a deontological ethicist who believes in duty based ethics. Using his philosophies, you have to put yourself in the
other person’s situation and will that what you choose for him/her would be the same thing that he/she would choose for you. For example, in the capital punishment situation, you have to will that you would want the other person or people to choose death for you if you do for them. Although most people would not will to die, this situation is unrealistic. The actual questions that should be asked are would you commit a crime that deserves capital punishment and if your family members or close friends were the victims, would you will that the criminal die? Most rational humans would not feel any sympathy for criminals because they would not commit such death worthy crimes. Also, they would most likely want the criminal to suffer as much as their friend or family member did (Bonevac 33-45). Although Immanuel Kant’s universal law idea can oppose capital punishment, it can also promote it.
Continuing to make capital punishment controversial is the issue of religion. The seventh commandment of the Bible states, “Thou shall not kill”; therefore some people do not believe it is right to sentence a person to death. On the other hand, the Bible also says “an eye for an eye”, so shouldn’t someone who murders another person be executed? Also, doesn’t “Thou shall not kill” apply to those convicted murderers? Thou shall not kill can not be truly interpreted as meaning there should be no death penalty, due to the double meaning. Since the Bible specifically states, “an eye for an eye”, it should be legal in all states to kill those who kill others.
The right we, as citizens, start with to belong to a community is not unconditional; it is more of a privilege. When one person in a community interferes with another’s right to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness, he/she invalidates his/her right to belong to the community. Life is precious and every member has a right to experience it to the fullest, but, to do so, we have to honor each other’s rights. When someone commits a crime worthy of the death penalty, he/she has interfered with another’s rights. The death penalty can be used as punishment for the sake of maintaining the community whose foundation has been
violated. A main question facing capital punishment is does the punishment fit the crime? Considering the scarcity of the number of death sentences, it is unlikely for the punishment to be too great for the crime. To sufficiently honor the rights of the community members, the
death penalty should be legalized throughout the United States.
Overall, if the United States returned to the days when executions were quick, taxpayers would spend less money and prison overpopulation would be less of a problem. In 1933, Giuseppe Zangara pulled a gun on president elect Franklin Roosevelt and fired repeatedly. Although he missed Roosevelt, he mortally wounded the mayor of Chicago. Thirty-three days after his arrest Zangara was executed (Matthews 39). In the past judges did not waste time or money with appeals and the capital punishment process had fewer problems. If the capital punishment process was sped up, the United States could be cleaned up. By doing away with appeals and numerous court cases, judges could be more efficient. Added up this means fewer taxes and a cleaner, safer world. Now, who opposes that?