Capital Punishment Essay Research Paper How do

Capital Punishment`s Cost Essay, Research Paper

How do you feel about the saying, ?an eye for an eye?? Do you feel that it

is a good saying to run a nation by? Or do you agree with Gandhi who added to

that statement, ?–and everyone is blind?? There have been many

controversies in the history of the United States, ranging from abortion to gun

control; however, capital punishment has been one of the most hotly contested

issues in recent decades. Capital Punishment is the execution of a criminal

pursuant to a sentence of death imposed by a competent court. It is not intended

to inflict any physical pain or any torture; it is only another form of

punishment. This form of punishment is irrevocable because it removes those

punished from society permanently, instead of temporarily imprisoning them, this

is the best and most effective way to deal with criminals. The usual alternative

to the death penalty is life-long imprisonment. Capital punishment is a method

of retributive punishment as old as civilization itself. The death penalty has

been imposed throughout history for many crimes, ranging from blasphemy and

treason to petty theft and murder. Many ancient societies accepted the idea that

certain crimes deserved capital punishment. Ancient Roman and Mosaic Law

endorsed the notion of retaliation; they believed in the rule of ?an eye for

an eye.? Similarly, the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, and Greeks all executed

citizens for a variety of crimes. The most famous people who were executed were

Socrates (Saunders 462) and Jesus. Only in England, during the reigns of King

Canute (1016-1035; Hoyt 151) and William the Conqueror (1066-1087; Miller 259)

was the death penalty not used, although the results of interrogation and

torture were often fatal. Later, Britain reinstated the death penalty and

brought it to its American colonies. Although the death penalty was widely

accepted throughout the early United States, not everyone approved of it. In the

late-eighteenth century, opposition to the death penalty gathered enough

strength to lead to important restrictions on the use of the death penalty in

several northern states, while in the United States, Michigan, Wisconsin, and

Rhode Island abandoned the practice altogether. In 1794, Pennsylvania adopted a

law to distinguish the degrees of murder and only use the death penalty for

premeditated first-degree murder. Another reform took place in 1846 in

Louisiana. This state abolished the mandatory death penalty and authorized the

option of sentencing a capital offender to life imprisonment rather than to

death. After the 1830s, public executions ceased to be demonstrated but did not

completely stop until after 1936. Throughout history, governments have been

extremely inventive in devising ways to execute people. Executions inflicted in

the past are now regarded today as ghastly, barbaric, and unthinkable and are

forbidden by law almost everywhere. Common historical methods of execution

included: stoning, crucifixion, burning, breaking on the wheel, drawing and

quartering, beheading and decapitation, shooting, and hanging. These types of

punishments today are banned by the eighth amendment to the constitution (The

Constitution, Amendment 8). In the United States, the death penalty is currently

implemented in one of five ways: firing squad, hanging, gas chamber,

electrocution, and lethal injection. These methods of execution compared to

those of the past are not meant for torture, but meant for punishment for the

crime. For the past decades, capital punishment has been one of the most hotly

contested political issues in America. This debate is a complicated one. Capital

punishment is a legal, practical, philosophical, social, political, and moral

question. The notion of deterrence has been at the very center of the practical

debate over the question of capital punishment. Most of us assume that we

execute murderers primarily because we believe it will discourage others from

becoming murderers. Retentionists have long asserted the deterrent power of

capital punishment as an obvious fact. The fear of death deters people from

committing crimes. Still, abolitionists believe that deterrence is little more

than an assumption and a naive assumption at that. Abolitionists claim that

capital punishment does not deter murderers from killing or killing again. They

base most of their argument against deterrence on statistics. States that use

capital punishment extensively show a higher murder rate than those that have

abolished the death penalty. Also, states that have abolished the death penalty

and then reinstated it show no significant change in murder rate. They say

adjacent states with the death penalty and those without show no long-term

differences in the number of murders that occur in that state. And finally,

there has been no record of change in the rate of homicides in a given city or

state following a local execution. Any possibility of deterring a would-be

murderer from killing has little effect. Most Retentionists argue that none of

the statistical evidence proves that capital punishment does not deter potential

criminals. There is absolutely no way to prove, with any certainty, how many

would-be murderers were in fact deterred form killing due to the death penalty.

They point out that the murder rate in any given state depends on many things

besides whether or not that state uses capital punishment. They cite such

factors as the proportion of urban residents in the state, the level of economic

prosperity, and the social and racial makeup of the populous. But a small

minority is willing to believe in these statistics and to abandon the deterrence

argument. But they defend the death penalty base on other arguments, relying

primarily on the need to protect society from killers who are considered high

risk for killing again. Incapacitation is another controversial aspect of the

death penalty. Abolitionists say condemning a person to death removes any

possibility of rehabilitation. They are confident in the life-sentence

presenting the possibility of rehabilitating the convict; however,

rehabilitation is a myth. The state does not know how to rehabilitate people

because there are plenty of convicted murderers who kill again and again. Some

of these murderers escape and kill again or they kill while still in prison.

While reading different articles both on the internet and in magazines I came

across many stories of inmates who kill another inmate for a piece of chicken,

how pathetic is this ?rehabilitation? system? The life-sentence is also a

myth, because of overcrowding in prisons early parole has released convicted

murderers and they still continue to kill. Incapacitation is not solely meant as

deterrence but it is meant to maximize public safety by removing any possibility

of a convicted murderer to murder again. The issue of execution of an innocent

person is troubling to both abolitionists and Retentionists alike. Some people

are frightened of this possibility enough to be convinced that capital

punishment should be abolished. This is not true at all! The execution of

innocent people is very rare because there are many safeguards guaranteeing

protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty. There is legal

assistance provided and an automatic appeals process for persons convinced of

capital crimes. Persons under the age of eighteen, pregnant women, new mothers,

or persons who have become insane cannot be sentenced to death. Capital

punishment saves lives as well as takes them. We must accept the few risks of

wrongful deaths for the sake of defending public safety. Abolitionists say the

cost of execution has become increasingly expensive and that life sentences are

more economical. A study of the Texas Criminal System estimated the cost of

appealing capital murder at approximately $3.2 million. This high cost includes

$265,640 for the trial; $294.240 for the state appeals; $113,608 for federal

appeals (over six years); and $135,875 for death row housing. In contrast, the

cost of housing a prisoner in a Texas maximum-security prison single cell for 40

years is estimated at $535,000 ( This is a huge amount of

taxpayer money but the public looks at it as an investment in safety since these

murderers will never kill again. Retentionists argue that these high costs are

due to the lengthy time and the high expenses result from innumerable appeals,

many over technicalities which have little or nothing to do with the question of

guilt or innocence, and do little more than jam up the nation?s court system.

If these frivolous appeals were eliminated, the procedure would neither take so

long nor cost so much. The moral issues concerning the legitimacy of the death

have been brought up by many abolitionists. They think that respect for life

forbids the use of the death penalty, while retentionists believe that respect

for life requires it. Abolitionists usually cite the Bible saying, ?To me

belongeth vengeance, and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the

day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make

haste? (Deuteronomy 32:35). Whereas the retentionists usually cite, ?Whoso

sheddeth man?s blood, by man shall his blood be shed?? (Genesis 9:6). Both

of these verses are good arguments and seem contradictory; however, many

religious people say that God works in mysterious ways and one thing He works

through is the government so the sentencing of criminals could be God working

his vengeance through our court systems. The latter of the two verses is many

people?s moral justification for supporting the death penalty, and ?let the

punishment fit the crime usually goes right along with the verse also. All three

of these quotes could imply that the murderer deserves to die and it was his own

fault for putting himself on death row. Supporters of capital punishment say

that society has the right to kill in defense of its members, just as an

individual has the right to kill in self defense for his or her own personal

safety. In the United States, the main objection to capital punishment has been

that it was always used unfairly, in at least three major ways. First, females

are rarely sentenced to death and executed, even though 20 percent of all

murders that have occurred in recent years were committed by women. Second, a

disproportionate number of nonwhites are sentenced to death and executed. A

black man who kills a white person is eleven times more likely to receive the

death penalty than a white man who kills a black person (

In Texas in 1991, blacks made up twelve percent of the overall population, forty

eight percent of the prison population, and 55.5 percent of the population on

death row ( Before the 1970s, when the death penalty for

rape was still used in many states, no white men were guilty of raping nonwhite

women, whereas most black offenders found guilty of raping a white woman were

executed. This data shows how the death penalty can discriminate and be used on

certain races rather than equally as punishment for severe crimes on both races.

And third, poor and friendless defendants, those who are inexperienced or have

court-appointed counsel, are most likely to be sentenced to death and executed.

Defenders of the death penalty, however, argue that, because nothing found in

the laws of capital punishment causes sexist, racist, or class bias in its use,

these kinds of discrimination are not a sufficient reason for abolishing the

death penalty on the idea that it discriminates or violates the 8th Amendment of

the United States Constitution. Opponents of capital punishment have replied to

this by saying that the death penalty is subject to miscarriage of justice and

that it would be impossible to administer fairly. In the 1970s, a series of U.S.

Supreme Court decisions made the death penalty in the U.S. unconstitutional, if

it is mandatory, if it is imposed without providing courts with adequate

guidance to make the right decision in the severity of the sentence, or if it is

imposed for a crime that does not take or threaten the life of another human

being. The death penalty was also confined to crimes of murder, including a

felony murder. A felony murder is any homicide committed in the course of

committing another felony, such as rape or robbery. After the 1972 court ruling

that all but a few capital statutes were unconstitutional, thirty-seven states

revised and reinstated their death penalty laws. In 1989 the Supreme Court

decided that the death penalty could be used on those who were mentally retarded

or underage (but not under sixteen) at the time of the killing. A trend that the

Supreme Court is following is making a cut back on the appeals that death row

inmates could make to the federal courts. I feel strongly toward using the death

penalty as punishment for unspeakable crimes. I feel that it is a deterrent for

criminal activity because of its severity and it will never allow a murderer to

kill again and destroy another family. The death penalty is not a problem if all

avenues have been investigated and nothing is questionable. I do, however, feel

that restrictions should be put on its uses. Not all crimes deserve the death

penalty. Let the punishment fit the crime, if a person performs a premeditated

heinous murder he should be put to death. It is that simple. If the convicted

offender shows no remorse for his actions, then the decision should be even

easier. Repeat offenders and people who enjoy killing do not deserve to walk our

streets; this method of punishment will prevent that from ever happening. I fell

that it is important to send a message to all future ?thrill-killers? that

taking the life of another human is wrong and if they decide to try it, they

must face the consequence of death.

Electric, Inc. ?Death Penalty Statistics.? 1998. Online


Hoyt, Robert S. ?Canute.? World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: Childcraft

International, Inc. 1981. Miller, Jane K. ?William I.? World Book

Encyclopedia. Chicago: Childcraft International, Inc. 1981. Saunders, J.L.

?Socrates.? World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: Childcraft International, Inc.

1981. The Holy Bible. Old King James Version. 1988 Dugan Publishers, Inc. United

States. The Delegates to the Constitutional Convention. ?The United States

Constitution?. 1787.


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