Capital Punishment Essay, Research Paper
A Difficult Decision (The capital punishment debate) The one subject that will affect us most throughout our lives is death. For this reason any issue dealing with such a matter should be treated with the utmost respect and seriousness. Hasty decisions cannot be made when life, regardless of whose, is at stake. All aspects and implications must be considered when this world’s most valuable possession lies in the hands of the imperfect man. Throughout history man has struggled to control the one inevitable factor of life. This has been done unsuccessfully. Currently the best example of such a trial is capital punishment.Capital punishment has been debated, used, and even considered routine in most civilizations, including our own. There are two sides to every argument capital punishment is no exception. In fact both sides have some extremely valid arguments which can be very convincing. When presented alone each side can cite many facts, figures, and beliefs that will make for a very articulate and compelling argument. Here lies the problem, because both sides are able to produce such an argument a person is easily swayed depending only on what he or she has not heard. Therefore, is necessary for every person to unbiasedly hear both sides of the issue. A large part of the controversy comes from this question: Do we as a society or even as the human race have the right to give a sentence as extreme as death? The answer, unfortunately, is unknown. Of course either side would tell you their answer is the correct one. A decision such as this, however, should be made only by what we as individuals think and believe. This will make the society you live in that much closer to your own. Those who oppose capital punishment argue that we do not have the right to judge whether a person deserves to lose their life. It could be argued that the only one who has the right to take a life is the one who gives it. Granted many lives are taken by people who do not have such a divine right, however, this is not the argument. The argument is that we as a society cannot condone such actions, and by using the death penalty we are doing so. In essence we are saying it is all right to kill those who have killed. This may sound somewhat reasonable, however, it also conveys the message that in some situations murder is not a bad thing. Is revenge so important in our society that we are willing to make this statement? Due to the diverse background of values and beliefs in our society the issue of morality can also be used to fight for the death penalty. Is it wrong to kill? The answer is a resounding yes. Do we as a society make it a practice to exercise punishment for the wrong doings in our world? The answer? Also, yes. With this in mind, should we not consider it our responsibility as a society to do all that is in our power to keep crimes as horrific as murder from occurring? What kind society would allow its members to live in fear of those who are willing to take a life? A society such as this should not be considered free or just. We know that where there is philosophy there is also practicality. No argument should be viewed using only morals and ethics. Who can say which belief is right. Our values are for the most part relative. Because of this we must learn to see the practical sides of an argument. As with the issue of morality, practicality is also offered from both sides. When it comes to issues of practicality money always seems to be at the top of the list. It seems likely that it would cost more to keep someone in prison for life than to execute them. However, this particular case is somewhat deceiving. The average cost to obtain and carry out the death sentence is approximately 2.2 million dollars (Johnson, 1990). It has been estimated that this is more costly than the incarceration of a prisoner for one hundred years (Johnson, 1990). Activists for capital punishment argue that the majority of this expense is due only to the appeals process. To fix the problem we simply need to make new laws limiting the number of appeals and the length of time one can be on death row. Another issue falling in the practicality category is that of rehabilitation verses incapacitation. It can be argued that execution is the only sure way to prevent a killer from killing again. However, those against the death penalty disagree contesting that life imprisonment is sufficient in this prevention.
Many argue that a punishment as severe as death would prevent a number violent crimes from being committed. If the sentence were used more, it may succeed in being used as a scare tactic to possible murderers. The other side of this argument is that the people who commit these crimes are often too enraged or mentally perturbed to reason or consider the consequences of their actions. It can also be argued that a sentence of life in prison is just as, if not more, deterring that a sentence of death. Statistics show that death may be a successful deterrent. There were 56 executions in 1995, the most since 1957. The same year the total number of violent crimes dropped to the lowest point since 1973 (U.S. Department of Justice, 1996). It is true that this relationship could be a mere coincidence, however, it is possible that these two statistics are directly related. If so this would mean that capital punishment does effectively serve as a deterrent to potential criminals. An issue that makes it hard for many people to agree with capital punishment is that of discrimination. Those opposed to the death penalty have recently brought up the argument that it works against males and minorities. They argue that the percentage of minority men who are executed is greater than the percentage of white men who are executed. If this argument is valid, it is hard to see how anyone could be for such an injustice. The statistics do not entirely agree with those who believe the death penalty to be discriminatory. The ratio of the number of prisoners facing the death sentence to those who actually receive it gives an accurate percentage of those put to death. If these calculations are made for both white and minority prisoners, from 1977 to1995, the percentage of minority prisoners executed is slightly lower, at about 5.4 percent, than the percentage of white prisoners, which is about 6.4 percent (U.S. Department of Justice, 1996). Although we can see that race does not seem to be a large factor in capital punishment, it is a different story when it comes to gender. When the same calculations made for race are done for men and women the results are more distinct . The percentage of women executed turns out to be zero percent, meaning no women were executed. When the calculations are done for men, the percentage is around six percent. There may very well be other factors at play, however, given the results it is probably safe to say that the death penalty works against men. There are a number of issues dealing with the use of punishment by death in our society. However, the issues discussed seem to bring more people to a decision than any others. It is this very reason that people need to hear both sides of these issues. Either side of the argument can easily sway a person to one stance or the other, however when presented together the decision is more difficult, and a decision this crucial to our society should never be an easy one to make. So what is the answer? Could this be the first step toward our society’s loss of respect for life? Will such contemptuous acts towards human existence lead to the end of our civilization as it has for past civilizations? If we do not take extreme measures, will we be forced to live in fear, and not as a society at all? Will this world be an unfit or unsafe place to live? The answer? Probably not. Non the less this is still a decision that will affect us all and the way we live. When each person uses their own beliefs, thoughts, and reasoning to reach conclusions and make decisions then this society will truly be your society.
Johnson, R. “Death work: A study of the modern execution process.” 1990. http://www.cycor.ca/Psych/ogloff.htm> (9 September 1997). U.S. Department of Justice. Bureau of Justice Statistics. 1996. http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/cp.htm#selected> (9 September 1997).