Capital Punishment Should Be Abolished Essay Research

Capital Punishment Should Be Abolished Essay, Research Paper

Capital Punishment Should be Abolished

Evidence suggests that the death penalty does not deter people from

committing crimes. It is a cruel and cold blooded form of punishment and there

have been instances where innocent people were sentenced to death and later

found to be innocent.

The most common methods of execution are hanging and shooting. Countries

like the U.S. use electrocution, gas chambers and lethal injections to dispose

of the convicted. Some countries, like the U.S., have tried to minimise the pain

of execution by introducing the electric chair. In some parts of the world, more

pain is deliberately inflicted on the condemned, such as in the Islamic

countries and Nigeria. In Nigeria the executions are done in public by a firing

squad. The convicted are executed slowly, by firing bullets at intervals,

starting at the ankles. In Islamic countries the condemned are stoned to death.

But there are special rules for these executions; (Amnesty International

article1), “The Islamic Penal Code of Iran stipulates: “In the punishment of

stoning to death, the stones should not be so large that the person dies on

being hit by one or two of them.”1 This is the kind of cruelty which is

inflicted on the executed in those countries. Other methods of execution, like

the electric chair and hanging, are also quite cruel to the convicted. That is

one of the reasons the death penalty should be abolished.

Does the death penalty really deter criminals?

There is very little valid evidence to suggest that capital punishment

deters criminals. The most recent study of research findings on the relationship

between the death penalty and homicide rates, conducted for the United Nations

Committee on Crime Prevention and Control, in 1988, has concluded that:”this

research has failed to provide scientific proof that executions have a greater

deterrent effect than life imprisonment.”1. Many murders are committed under the

influence of alcohol and drugs, some murderers might be mentally ill. If one of

these factors influenced a person, how could he/she control and asses what

he/she is doing or be deterred from committing the crime? It would be impossible,

and after the incident he/she might not remember it. A cover story in the

“Time”3 presents a report about a man called Doug McCray, then 32. He had a

reasonable education after dropping out of college one and a half years later to

enlist in the army. He was given a medical discharge seventeen months later.He

married and went back to college. But his marriage didn’t last long and he

dropped out of college again and turned to alcohol. Sometime between October 13

and 15, 1973 a woman was raped and beaten to death. He was arrested and charged

with murder because he was drunk and could not tell where he was at the time of

the murder. The FBI had matched his palm print with the one found in the women’s

apartment. Ten years later McCray still doesn’t know if he was guilty or not. He

was found guilty and is in Florida’s death row. This anecdote clearly indicates

the possibility of executing a person who might not have committed the crime.

Some emotionally ill people would see death as the only route to freedom,

so the death penalty does not deter them at all. If the death penalty does not

deter many people, then why would you want to introduce it in the first place?

A better deterrent is needed, which would make finding the culprit

easier and quicker, making it impossible for criminals to get away with what

they have done. If such a deterrent was found then criminals would have second

thoughts of commiting the crime because they would think that they might get

caught. Criminals who plan their crimes very carefully, won’t be deterred by the

death sentence because they would believe that they won’t be caught.

Delay is also what makes capital punishment less of a deterrent, because

it minimizes the chances of a convicted criminal ever being executed. Usually

when a person is sentenced to death, it would take years until he/she would be

executed. In the U.S. it takes an average of three years for, a so called

capital case, to work its way up to the highest court. If an appeal is made it

would delay the execution by five to ten years. “Willie Francis, 17, survived a

sub-lethal shock from the electric chair in 1946. It took another year for him

to be executed.”3 This kind of delay would not be likely to deter many other


A study made in the U.S., of death row inmates has found that 62 percent

were unskilled workers, 60 percent were unemployed and a majority of these

people were represented by lawyers with less than five years experience. Clifton

Duffy, former warden of San Quentin Prison in California, and others have

testified that capital punishment is “a privilege of the poor.” People who are

inadequately represented are more likely to lose their case and this is what

makes capital punishment unfair because poor people are more likely to be

sentenced to death than rich people.

Murder cannot be cured by murder. The death penalty is cruel, inhumane

and above all irreversible. It does not deter and isn’t as effective as life

imprisonment. Hugo A. Bedau, professor of philosophy at Tufts University says,

“The death penalty guarantees that the person on whom it is inflicted will

commit no more crimes. He is prevented, not deterred, from so doing. But death,

is too high a price to pay when studies show that convicted murderers rarely

commit another violent crime. To prevent the occasional repeat murder, everyone

convicted of criminal homicide would have to be executed- a policy too

brutal to consider and one that would require dozens of legal killings each


The United Nations began urging worldwide abolition on the grounds

that,”every human has an inherent right to life.”

It can be seen that there is no logical reason for reintroducing capital

punishment. The fact that there is no evidence to support the view that it

deters criminals, that it is irreversible and an inhumane punishment suggests

that capital punishment should be abolished worldwide.


1)”Simply Living” Vol.4 No.4 1989, “The Green Pages:Amnesty International,

Campaign to abolish the death penalty”

2)Encyclopaedia Britannica, Britannica center, Instant Research service, “The

debate over capital punishment”, “Arguments for abolition of death penalty”

3)”Time”, January 24, 1983, “An Eye for an Eye”


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