Capital Punishment 17 Essay, Research Paper
Each year there are about 250 people added to death row and 35 executed. The death penalty is the most severe form of punishment enforced in the United Sates today. Lethal injection is the most common form used today. There was a period from 1972 to 1976 that capital punishment was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The reason for this decision was that the death penalty was deemed cruel and unusual punishment under the eighth amendment . The decision was reversed when new methods of execution were introduced. This paper will show that the purpose of capital punishment is consistent with and embodies the purpose of the criminal justice system.
Lets imagine for a moment there was no death penalty. The only reasonable sentence would a life sentence. This would be costly to the taxpayers, not only for the cost of housing and feeding the prisoner but because of the numerous appeals which wastes man-hours and money. By treating criminals in this manner, we are encouraging behavior that will result in a prison sentence. If there is no threat of death to one who commits a murder, other than that person is guaranteed to be provided with a decent living environment until their next parole hearing, they are certainly not receiving the punishment they deserve. Killing a deserving person has to be cheaper than housing, feeding, and putting up with his or her constant appeals. If capital punishment did not ever exist, just life imprisonment, we would have many more costly prisons.
The death penalty can save lives by stopping repeat murderers, but does it deter murder? Opponents of the death penalty argue that there is no deterrent effect. However, there are a number of studies that indicate that the contrary is true. A study by W. Bailey of the period from 1967-68 showed a deterrent effect in twenty-seven states. A later study by him showed a deterrent effect in twenty-five states. During the moratorium on Capital punishment in the United States, murder increased by one hundred percent. A review of the fourteen nations who abolished the death penalty showed that the murder rate increased by seven percent from the five year pre-abolition period to the five year post-abolition period.
Given the benefits of capital punishment, it is hard to imagine why anyone would be against it, but there are several arguments against the death sentence that need to be addressed. Opponents of the death penalty point out that there is a possibility of wrongly executing an innocent man, I must point out that in this imperfect world, citizens are required to take certain risks in exchange for relative safety. After all, far, far more innocent lives have been taken by convicted murderers than the supposedly 23 innocents mistakenly executed this century. For instance, over 600 repeat offenses occur within prison walls each year in this country. Not only that, but over 13,000 American citizens are murdered each year by released and paroled criminals. These are the serious flaws in life sentences that abolitionists prefer to trivialize to nonexistence.
A second argument against the death penalty is discrimination. Eighty-two percent of all murder victims are white and thirteen percent are black. This is about a 6:1 ratio. Opponents of the death penalty, such as the NAACP, argue that the system values white lives more than black lives. If this is true, one has to wonder why whites represent fifty-five percent of those executed and blacks thirty-nine percent,when blacks have committed forty-nine percent of all murders, and whites thirty-nine percent from 1976-1994. Successful prosecutions depend on the nature of the crime and not the race of the victim. The reason that whites are overwhelmingly the victims in death row cases is that whites are overwhelmingly the victims in capital crimes. In McClesky v. Zant, the court ruled that the death penalty was not racist in its application. The death penalty is not racist and does not violate the cruel and unusual punishment clause.
In conclusion I believe that prompt and consistent executions would have a deterrent effect, there remains one great virtue, even for infrequent executions. The recidivism rate for capital punishment is zero. No executed murderer has ever killed again. You can’t say that about those sentenced to prison, even if you are an abolitionist.