Death Penalty Essay, Research Paper
Effectiveness of the Capital Punishment
How many of you have thought about the death penalty to reduce crime? Is it true that it sends a threat of what will happen to criminals if they commit a crime? The death penalty does not deter crime. In addition, there is a risk of executing innocent people.
Those who support this law are convinced that it is more effective deterrent to crime than imprisonment and is a punishment for the crime committed. It also guarantees that the condemned person will commit no further crimes and it is more economical than life sentences.
The death penalty does not deter crime because murders are committed in acts of violent rage and the murderers are not thinking of what punishment might happen to them in years time. In addition, the majority of murders are not planned ahead of time. Most of these occur in moments when intense emotion overcomes reason, or when a person experiences panic or hysteria. People who are in these emotional states do think about the consequences of their actions. In addition, the interpretation of this threat varies from individual to individual, and situation to situation. For example, a hungry person may be willing to risk punishment to get food. Because of this, threats of punishment cannot be effective deterrents for everybody all of the time.
In order for capital punishment to work as a deterrent, certain events must be present in the criminal’s mind prior to committing the offense. The criminal must be aware that others have been punished in the past for the offense that he or she is planning, and that what happened to another individual who committed this offense can also happen to him or her. But individuals who commit any type of crime ranging from auto theft to 1st-degree murder, never take into account the consequences of their actions. Deterrence to crime is rooted in the individuals themselves. Every human has a personal code of moral conduct. Therefore, each person tolerance varies based on his or her interpretation about moral conduct. In addition, this personal code of moral conduct can be made or be broken by friends, influences, family, home, or life. An individual who is never taught some sort of restraint as a child will probably never understand any limit to what he or she can do until he or she have learned it himself or herself. Therefore, capital punishment will never truly work as a deterrent because of human nature to ignore practical advice. Besides, self-learning is an individual choice.
The New York Post states that the “death penalty does indeed make positive difference” (Tucker 31).
If a deterrence effect were to exist, it would be found in states with capital punishment. Studies show that murder rates in states with capital punishment differ little from the states that do not have capital punishment…In some states …capital punishment increased the crime rate (Stephens 111-112). Moreover, there are many possible explanations for why the murder rate rises in state with capital punishment. These include, among others, changes in the economic conditions, the availability of handguns, the usage of drug and alcohol, and the effectiveness of law enforcement in apprehending and prosecuting offenders. Conditions such as these are generally beyond the individual’s control. Consequently, the death penalty will not be the best choice to stop crime. According to supporters of the death penalty, this law’s main objective is to reduce criminal acts. Crime and Punishment in America acknowledges that, “the national incarceration rate doubled between 1985 and 1995 alone…” (Currie 29) so this confirms that the death penalty does not deter crime and it doesn’t prevent incarcerated people from killing again nor reduce the number of homicides among prisoners. For instance, if the death penalty sends a warning to criminals, then the Wendy’s Restaurant massacre and Oklahoma city bombing should not have occurred. As a result, this law is failing it deterrence purpose.
Another reason why the death penalty is not an effective policy to stop criminals from committing crimes is that if there were any validity to the deterrence argument, it is negated by the endless appeals, delays, technicalities, and retrials that keep persons condemned to death waiting for execution for years on end. It seems that our judicial system is too incompetent to carry it out and that incompetence becomes another injustice against our society. Since our judicial system is not perfect, the risk of executing innocent people seems to be a reality.
According to The New York Post (July 10, 2000), “High profile exoneration of several death-row inmates has posed the following question: Are innocent people being condemned to death? …The answer …appears to be yes” (Cannon 31). This point seems to be a fact because the justice system relies on human judgment, and since human judgement is sometimes flawed errors can and do occur. This situation illustrates how close the justice system can come to executing an innocent person or at least a person whose guilt is uncertain. The uncertainty that prevails in determinations of guilt and sentencing casts doubt on the ability of the justice system to avoid error in judgment and wrongful execution. As a result, DNA comes in. It used to be impossible to prove that the legal system produces wrongful convictions. But in the last seven years, DNA tests have exonerated prisoners, who were on death row. The New York Times (July 10, 2000) points out that Mr. Liebman, a law professor at the Columbia University, suggests:
“The high rate appeals means that serious errors are often made by trial courts. …69 people have been released from death row because they were found to be innocent” (qtd.in Wilson A19).
Therefore, the cost of the death penalty to innocent life is becoming irreparable.
Finally, the cost of taking a life to make up for the taking of another life is enormously expensive for the judicial system as well as for taxpayers. As stated in The Death Penalty Opposing Viewpoints, “It has cost the state of Florida $57 million to execute 18 men. It is estimated that this six times the cost of life imprisonment…”(Stephens 111). The cost of the apparatus and maintenance of the procedures attending the death penalty, including death row and the endless appeals and legal machinery, far outweighs the expense of maintaining in prison the tiny fraction of criminals who would otherwise be slain.
The use of the death penalty is the rough equivalent of a person hitting himself or herself repeatedly on the head with a hammer in order to treat a headache resulting from a brain tumor. It can only make a very bad situation much worse. The state’s two primary responsibilities are to protect the public health and safety and to provide equity, fairness and justice to its citizens. The death penalty is failing both goals. It is the worst kind of crime-control policy to deter crime.
Cannon, Carl M. “Are We Executing Innocent People?” New
York Post July 10, 2000: 31.
Currie, Elliott. Crime and Punishment in America. Henry Holt
and Company, New York, 1998.
Stephens, L. Mathew “The Death Penalty is Not an Effective
Punishment.” The Death Penalty Opposing Viewpoints
Series; Second edition Ed. Carol Wekesser San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1991. 111-112.
Tucker, William. “Does the Death Penalty Make a Difference?
New York Post. July 10, 2000: 30-31.
Wilson, James Q. “What Death-Penalty Errors?” The New York
Times July 10, 2000: A19.