Capital Punishment Essay, Research Paper
Positive Aspects of Capital Punishment
?Not the physical act, but the social meaning of murder distinguishes robbery from taxation, murder from execution, a gift from theft? (Leone 233). This quote defines the exact reason why capital punishment is an ethical form of justice. Although capital punishment may seem like an unfair form of justice, it is actually the most logical way to punish criminals who commit the most serious of serious offenses. It serves as an effective deterrent and provides an excellent form of retribution. If used in the right way, capital punishment would be more cost efficient and effective than life in prison.
Capital punishment has been in use in the United States since the beginning of its history. Among the first to be put to death from crimes in the colonies were the so-called witches. The best known was the Salem Witch Trials, where a total of twenty witches had been sentenced to die by the time the trials were over. Through most of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there was much discussion over capital punishment. In the eighteenth century several hundred offenses were punishable by death, but in the late 1880?s the government restricted the number of crimes punishable bye death to three: treason, murder and rape. Between 1880 and 1917 there was much flip-flopping in many states over capital punishment. From 1977 to 1995there have been 300 executions in the United States. As of 1995 only twelve states did not have the death penalty. These days the argument is over the electric chair, and whether or not it is constitutional. Just recently the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional. Bryan Stevenson said: ?This will continue to be an issue that plagues the administration in capital cases until the method of execution has changed? (?High Court?). Even the nations of the world have had the death penalty for long periods of time, even if they are abolished today. Ninety-six nations currently enforce the death penalty or have carried out executions during the past ten years (Gottfried 12-24). If the death penalty is still used through out the world, it is obviously an accepted form of punishment and should continue to be used.
The quote ?an eye for an eye? may seem like an out of date theory, but it is actually quite logical. Why should a man live after he has taken someone?s life away, and ruined the lives of their family? He should not. In the book Capital Punishment by Robert Wolf, it quotes the Bible from Exodus 21:12: ?Whoever strikes a man a mortal blow must be put to death? (24), to show that capital punishment is an accepted form of punishment. While society as a whole usually looks at how they will benefit from the punishment, just looking at the nature of the crime is reason enough for the death penalty (Pojman 7). Some people may argue that life imprisonment is retribution enough, but life, however wretched it may be, and death have no similarities. The quote from The Death Penalty by Louis Pojman and Jeffrey Reiman, summarizes why retribution is an ethical form of punishment: ?It is better for one man to dies than for an entire people to perish. For if justice and righteousness perish, there is no longer any value in men?s living on the earth (8).
While the death penalty is ethical, it is also economically effective. By reserving capital punishment for cases in which the crime is particularly heinous and guilt is clearly established, the costs are reduced, and the benefits of maintaining the death penalty is raised (Bender 139). It costs 20,000 dollars a year to house a prisoner (one million dollars over forty years). It costs an outrageous 57.2 million dollars to execute three men in Florida (3.17 million dollars each). But take away all the redundant appeals, time-consuming delays, bizarre court rulings, and legal histrionics by defense attorneys. Take away all those factors and the cost of execution will be greatly reduced and it would be worth executing a man instead of keeping him in jail (Wekesser 100). Before being executed, death row inmates spend nine years on average appealing their convictions (Winters 114); nine years worth of money being wasted on someone that is going to die anyway. The death penalty has become so economically ineffective because of the Supreme Court?s rulings. It made many safeguards to the death penalty in response to opponents to it, but then responding to the complaints of those procedures, the put restrictions on the safeguards. It has become a vicious cycle, and has not resolved anything, just increased costs and time spent on the death penalty. If changed in the right ways, capital punishment can actually become economically efficient.
Capital punishment is also efficient in deterring criminals from committing serious crimes. Some may argue that life in prison is just as effective of a deterrent as death, but ?death has a property that life in prison does not: finality? (Schonebaum 82). Everyday people base their decisions on the risks involved. The risk of not stopping at a stoplight or sign is great damage and costs and the possibility of death, that is why people stop. Therefore, if a criminal knows that he could die for killing another innocent person and the consequences outweigh the rewards, then they will not do it (Wekesser 114). There are many instances in Utah that proves the death penalty deters potential criminals. Before Gary Gilmore was executed on January 17, 1977, there had been fifty-five murders in Utah. But the year after his execution there were forty-four murders, and twenty- percent decrease. After Pierre Dale Selby was executed, the murder rate dropped again in Utah in 1987. One more time the murder rate dropped after Authur Gary Bishop?s execution on June 10, 1988. Before his execution there were twenty-six murders, and after there were twenty-one, and nineteen percent decrease (Wekesser 98-99). These statistics prove that the death penalty is an effective deterrent. What do most people fear the most? Death, and because they fear that the most, the threat of death must be the greatest deterrent.
A quote from The Death Penalty: opposing viewpoints by Carol Wekesser, summarizes why the death penalty is necessary. ?There are three good things about capital punishment. One, the killer gets to experience the same fear and agony he inflicted on others. Two, the recidivism rate for executed murderers is zero. Three, electricity (or rope or bullets) is cheaper than room and board? (103). Capital punishment is an effective form of retribution and an effective deterrent, and with a few changes, could also be more cost efficient than life in prison.
?Executing murderers removes an element from society that has held the value of all life in contempt. This serves to uphold the value of not only the victims life, but all life? (?Kansas State?). In conclusion, the death penalty is a safeguard for society?s well being.
Bender, David L., ed. Is the death penalty an effective punishment? San Diego: Greenhaven,
Gottfried, Ted, ed. Capital Punishment: the death penalty debate. Springfield: Enslow
?High Court denies appeal over use of electric chair.? Pensacola News Journal 23 February
Kansas State Electronic Collegian. February 1999. Kansas State University. 23 February 1999
Leone, Bruno, ed. Opposing Viewpoints Criminal Justice. St. Paul: Greenhaven Press, 1983.
Pojman, Louis P., and Jeffrey Reiman. The Death Penalty. Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield
Schonebaum, Stephen E., ed. Does capital punishment deter crime? San Diego: Greenhaven
Wekesser, Carol, ed. The Death Penalty: opposing viewpoints. San Diego: Greehaven Press,
Winters, Paul A., ed. The Death Penalty: opposing viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven Press,
Wolf, Robert V. Capital Punishment. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 1997.